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HAVING now sketched the outlines of a system of Ethics, 
I propose in the present book to examine some of the objections 
which have been or may be made to the positions heretofore 
taken up, and to consider some points of view more or less 
opposed to my own. In replying to the objections I hope I may 
be able to elucidate and develope, perhaps in some ways to 
qualify and to correct, the conclusions at which we have 
hitherto arrived. 

The first of the objections with which I shall have to deal 
cpncerns what has often been called the hedonistic calculus. 

It has been maintained in these pages that the criterion of an 
action what, constitutes it a right Or wrong is its tendency to 
promote for all mankind a greatest quantity of good on the 
whole. This implies that ' good ' admits of being measured, and 
that particular elements in that good are likewise capable of 
being measured, and of being compared with one another in 
respect of their ultimate value. This assumption involves the 
assertion both that (i) each one of the various goods in which 
the ideal human life consists Virtue, Knowledge, pleasure, &c. 
is capable of quantity, so that I can prefer one course of action 
to another because it will promote more Virtue or more pleasure 
than another ; and (a) that a given quantity of one kind of good 
can be quantitatively compared with another, at least to this 
extent, that there is a meaning in asserting that a given quantity 



of Virtue is worth more or le&s than a given quantity of pleasure. 
Both of these assumptions have been denied. 

I shall deal first with the denial that even goods of the same 
kind are capable of quantitative measurement. I hardly know 
whether the question has ever been explicitly raised as to the 
higher goods Morality, Culture and the like but the possibility 
of quantitative measurement has certainly been explicitly denied 
with regard to pleasure. That is the first question therefore 
with which we shall have to deal. 

The doctrine that pleasures cannot be summed, that there is 
no meaning in the idea of a sum of pleasures and that conse- 
quently the * hedonistic calculus ' is impossible and unintelligible, 
has long been maintained by a certain section of anti-utilitarian 
writers, among whom it will be enough to mention the late Prof. 
T. H. Green and Mr. Bradley. It must be confessed, however, 
that it is not very easy to extract from either of these writers 
the exact grounds or even the precise meaning of their con- 
tention. Prof. Mackenzie in his Manual of Ethics and his 
Introduction to Social Philosophy has performed a real service 
by putting the doctrine into a form in which it is more easy to 
subject it to examination and criticism. In the present chapter, 
however, I shall not confine myself to what Prof. Mackenzie has 
advanced, as what appear to me the misconceptions which 
underlie his reasoning are widely diffused, and seem often to be 
assumed in the language of writers who have been less lucid and 
less explicit. My object is rather to get to the bottom of the 
misunderstanding than to criticize any particular writer; I do 
not therefore wish to be understood to hold Prof. Mackenzie 
responsible for every argument that I may criticize except where 
I expressly quote him. 

At this stage of our discussion I need hardly repeat that I am 
not in the least interested in the defence either of the hedonisfic 
Psychology or of hedonistic Utilitarianism, both of which I 
entirely reject on much the same grounds as those which would 
be assigned by the writers I am criticizing writers with some 
of whom I should largely agree in their general view of Ethics. 
This is particularly the case with regard to Prof. Mackenzie, who 
is quite free from that sectarian prejudice against Casuistry and 


that dislike to the scientific treatment of practical problems 
which are characteristic of several writers by whom the incom- 
mensurability of pleasures has been maintained. I agree with 
him in holding that pleasure is part of the good, though not the 
whole of it, as a good but not the good. It would seem prima 
facie to follow that ceteris paribus the course of action which 
promises more pleasure must be preferred to one that promises 
less ; and that, to ascertain whether an action should bo done, 
I must ideally add together the pleasures or amounts of pleasure 
likely to be attained by it, and compare them with the pleasure 
promised by the alternative course. But here we are met by 
a denial that it is possible to sum pleasures at all. 

It will be well to quote in full a few attempts to state the 
ground of this doctrine, 

(i) We will begin with a passage from Green's Prolegomena to 
Ethic* : l A " Summum Bonum " consisting of a greatest possible 
sum of pleasures is supposed to be definite and intelligible, because 
every one knows what pleasure is. But in what sense does 
every one know it? If only in the sense that every one can 
imagine the renewal of some pleasure which he has enjoyed, it 
may be pointed out that pleasures, not being enjoyable in a sum 
to say nothing of a greatest possible sum cannot be imagined 
in a sum either *. Though this remark, however, might be to 
the purpose against a Hedonist who held that desire could only 
be excited by imagined pleasure, and yet that a greatest sum of 
pleasure was an object of desire, it is not to the purpose against 
those who merely look on the greatest sum of pleasures as the 
true criterion, without holding that desire is only excited by 
imagination of pleasure. They will reply that, though we may 
not be able, strictly speaking, to imagine a sum of pleasures, 
every one knows what it is. Every one knows the difference 
between enjoying a longer succession of pleasures and a shorter 
one, a succession of more intense and a succession of less intense 

1 It is difficult to reconcile this statement with the admission * that there 
may be in fact such a thing as desire for a sum or contemplated series of 
pleasures' (Prolegomena to Ethics, 222). All that Green seems anxious to 
establish in this section is that without a permanent self there would be no 
such desire. 

B 2 


pleasures, a succession of pleasures less interrupted by pain and 
one more interrupted. In this sense every one knows the 
difference between enjoying a larger sum of pleasures and en- 
joying a smaller sum. He knows the difference also, between 
a larger number of persons or sentient beings and a smaller one. 
He attaches therefore a definite meaning to the enjoyment of 
a greater nett amount of pleasure by a greater number of beings, 
and has a definite criterion for distinguishing a better action 
from a worse, in the tendency of the one, as compared with the 
other, to produce a greater amount of pleasure to a greater 
number of persons. 

' The ability, however, to compare a larger sum of pleasure 
with a smaller in the sense explained as we might compare 
a longer time with a shorter is quite a different thing from 
ability to conceive a greatest possible sum of pleasures, or to 
attach any meaning to that phrase. It seems, indeed, to be in- 
trinsically as unmeaning as it would be to speak of a greatest 
possible quantity of time or space. The sum of pleasures plainly 
admits of indefinite increase, with the continued existence of 
sentient beings capable of pleasure. It is greater to-day than it 
was yesterday, and, unless it has suddenly come to pass that 
experiences of pain outnumber experiences of pleasure, it will be 
greater to-morrow than it is to-day ; but it will never be 
complete while sentient beings exist. To say that ultimate good 
is a greatest possible sum of pleasures, strictly taken, is to say 
that it is an end which for ever recedes; which is not only 
unattainable but from the nature of the case can never be more 
nearly approached ; and such an end clearly cannot serve the 
purpose of a criterion, by enabling us to distinguish actions 
which bring men nearer to it from those that do not. Are we 
then, since the notion of a greatest possible sum of pleasures is 
thus unavailable, to understand that in applying the Utilitarian 
criterion we merely approve one action in comparison with 
another, as tending to yield more pleasure to more beings 
capable of pleasure, without reference to a " Summum Bonum " 
or ideal of a perfect state of existence at all ? But without such 
reference is there any meaning in approval or disapproval at all ? 
It is intelligible that without such reference the larger sum of 


pleasures should be desired as against the less ; on supposition 
of benevolent impulses, it is intelligible that the larger sum 
should be desired by a man for others as well as for himself. 
But the desire is one thing; the approval of it the judgement 
" in a calm hour " that the desire or the action prompted by it is 
reasonable is quite another thing. Without some ideal how- 
ever indeterminate of a best state of existence, with the 
attainment of which the approved motive or action may be 
deemed compatible, the approval of it would seem impossible. 
Utilitarians have therefore to consider whether they can employ 
a criterion of action, as they do employ it, without some idea 
of ultimate good ; and, since a greatest possible sum of pleasures 
is a phrase to which no idea really corresponds, what is the 
idea which really actuates them in the employment of their 
criterion 1 / 

It will be observed that Green's objection is chiefly (i) to the 
idea of a greatest possible sum of pleasure and to the theory which 
finds in such a sum its ideal of human good. He does not deny 
that pleasures are capable of being summed, and that it is 
possible to compare the amount of pleasure on the whole which 
an action will bring with the probable results of another. Green, 
therefore, is in no way responsible for the view of his disciple, 
that even such a calculation is impossible. Of this view we 
may take Prof. Mackenzie as the representative. 

(2) Prof. Mackenzie writes : ' Pleasures cannot be Summed. It 
follows from this that there cannot be any calculus of pleasures 
i. e. that the values of pleasures cannot be quantitatively esti- 
mated. For there can be no quantitative estimate of things that 
are not homogeneous. But, indeed, even apart from this consider- 
ation, there seems to be a certain confusion in the Hedonistic 
idea that we ought to aim at a greatest sum of pleasures. If 
pleasure is the one thing that is desirable, it is clear that a sum 
of pleasures cannot be desirable ; for a sum of pleasures is not 
pleasure. We are apt to think that a sum of pleasures is 
pleasure, just as a sum of numbers is a number. But this is 
evidently not the case. A sum of pleasures is not pleasure, any 
more than a sum of men is a man. For pleasures, like men, 
1 Prolegomena to Ethics, 358, 359. 


cannot be added to one another. Consequently, if pleasure is 
the only thing that is desirable, a sum of pleasures cannot 
possibly be desirable. If the Hedonistic view were to be adopted, 
we ought always to desire the greatest pleasure i.e. we ought 
to aim at producing the most intense feeling of pleasure that it 
is possible to reach in some one's consciousness. This would be 
the highest aim. A sum of smaller pleasures in a number of 
different people's consciousnesses, could not be preferable to this 
because a sum of pleasures is not pleasure at all The reason 
why this does not appear to be the case, is that we habitually 
think of the desirable thing for man not as a feeling of pleasure 
but as a' continuous state of happiness. But a continuous state 
of happiness is not a mere feeling of pleasure. It has a certain 
objective content. Now if we regard this content as the desir- 
able thing, we do not regard the feeling of pleasure as the one 
thing that is desirable ; i. e. we abandon Hedonism V 

For purposes of criticism it will be convenient to break up 
the position of my opponents into three assertions, all of which 
seem to be implied by Prof. Mackenzie but of which the last 
might possibly be maintained without the second, or the last two 
without the first. I shall begin, that is to say, with the more 
extreme position, and then go on to the more moderate forms 
of the doctrine which I am criticizing. I may say at once that 
it is the first two which I am chiefly concerned to deny : the 
third seems to me to raise a more subtle and debatable question, 
and (while I am prepared to defend my thesis on this point) 
I attach little importance to it, and would particularly insist 
that failure to establish my position thereon should not be held 
in any way to invalidate my argument in relation to the other 
two. The three positions which I dispute are these: 

(i) That a sum of pleasures is not a possible object of desire. 

(a) That while the proposition this pleasure is greater or 
more pleasant than that has a meaning, the judgement is not 

(3) That even if one pleasure or sum of pleasures can be said 
to be greater in amount than another, numerical values cannot, 

1 Manual of Ethics, 4th ed., pp. 229, 230. Cf. the same writer's Introduction 
to Social Philosophy, 2nd ed., pp. 222-228. 


with any meaning, be assigned to two pleasures or sums of 
pleasure ; so that there can never be any meaning in the 
assertion * this pleasure is twice as great as that. 1 

I may add that for the present I am dealing with the com- 
parison o*f pleasures of the same kind or quality. Afterwards 
I shall have something to say as to the comparison of pleasures 
which ' differ in kind/ Meanwhile, the fact that I am confining 
myself to pleasures of the same kind may perhaps be my excuse 
if I take my illustrations for the most part from pleasures of 
a low type, such as those of eating and drinking. I do so simply 
because what I contend for is most clearly seen in the case of 
such pleasures. I make this remark to deprecate the wrath 
of critics who, while apparently not averse to a good dinner, 
seem to wish it to be understood that the pleasantness of the 
meal is to them a contemptible not to say regrettable accident 
involved in the pursuit of some higher end, the nature of which 
they never seem able to indicate with any precision. I need 
hardly say that I have no desire to emphasize the importance 
of the element contributed to human Well-being by those 
pleasures of eating and drinking to which the actual conventions 
of the most refined societies give a greater prominence than 
it is easy to justify. But however low we place them, and 
however strictly we think they ought to be limited, it seems 
impossible to justify any indulgence whatever in such things 
which goes beyond the imperative requirements of health and 
efficiency, unless we treat pleasure even such pleasure as 
a good. 


Firstly, then, it is asserted that a sum of pleasures is not 
a possible object of desire. 

This position would appear to be maintained upon one of two 
possible grounds : 

(a) It may be regarded as a corollary of the still more 
paradoxical doctrine that we never desire pleasure at all. This 
may mean that we never desire a pleasure, or that we never 
desire pleasure in general but always a particular pleasure. 


Some writers would seem to deny the possibility of desiring 
either a pleasure or pleasure in general. 

What lies at the bottom of these assertions seems to be the 
undeniable fact that it is impossible to enjoy pleasure in general 
or pleasure taken apart from everything else. Whatf we enjoy 
is always a particular content a pleasant sound, a pleasant 
sensation, a pleasant activity, a pleasant idea. A man whose 
consciousness was at any single minute full of nothing but 
pleasure would be an impossible variety of lunatic : for he would 
have to admit that he was pleased at just nothing at all. 
Pleasure apart from the pleasant something is of course a pure 
abstraction. When a man is said to desire pleasure, it is meant 
undoubtedly that he desires pleasant things, and further that he 
desires them simply because they are pleasant. Is not this 
a possible state of mind ? It would seeni that there are those 
who would be prepared to deny even this who would say that 
even a particular pleasure, i. e. (of course) a particular pleasant 
content, is not a possible object of desire. Such a doctrine claims 
the high authority of the Master of Balliol : 

' Further, ivhen the desire of pleasure thus arises, it is in us 
combined with a consciousness for which pleasure cannot be the 
sole or the ultimate end, a consciousness to which, as universal, 
pleasure is not an adequate end. This may be shown in various 
ways, the most obvious of which is to point out that pleasure 
must be had in some object, for which there is a desire inde- 
pendently of the pleasure it brings V 

Now I have already contended that many probably most 
of our desires are not desires for pleasure but 'disinterested 
desires' or 'desires for objects/ and that in all such cases 
the satisfaction of the desire gives pleasure because the object 
has been desired; it is not desired, or at all events it is not 
desired solely, because it is calculated that the attainment of the 
given object will bring with it pleasure, and more pleasure than 

1 Caird, The Critical Philosophy of Kant, II, p. 229. Prof. Taylor defends 
the to me still stranger idea that, though pleasure need not arise from the 
fulfilment of desire, * neither worth nor goodness can properly be ascribed to 
it unless it is felt to be the realisation, in however unexpected a way, of 
some previously formed idea, the satisfaction of some previously experienced 
craving ' (The Problem of Conduct, p. 327). 


could be attained by the pursuit of any other object then within 
reach. As to what is commonly known as the ' hysteron-proteron 
of the hedonistic psychology ' I have already insisted as strongly 
on it as I know how to do. But the question before us is not whether 
other things can be desired besides pleasures, but whether pleasures 
are or are not capable of being desired at all. Certainly I do not 
believe that an angry man desires vengeance because he has calcu- 
lated from his own experience or the recorded experience of 
others that the pleasures of vengeance are the sweetest. Cer- 
tainly there are cases where a man gratifies his anger or his 
desire of vengeance with the certain knowledge that his act 
will entail pains which no impartial calculation of pleasures 
could possibly conclude to be outweighed by the pleasure of 
satisfied anger or revenge. (We are obliged to use the language 
of common life, though of course upon the assumptions of the 
hedonistic psychology there could not really be such a thing 
as anger or passion of any kind.) Unquestionably there are 
cases where the uplifted arm would not be stayed by the most 
demonstrated certainty of the greatest sum of pleasures that 
earth has to offer. But is all this equally true of cases where 
a man desires to eat or drink something which experience has 
shown to be pleasant ? The contention we are examining would 
seem to involve the assertion that, when a man who is not 
thirsty or in quest of health drinks port, he is impelled by 
a desire of port port as such, port for port's sake. The 
niceness of the port is, it would seem to be hinted, a quite 
irrelevant circumstance. What he wants is port because it 
is port, not port because it is nice. If that were so, it would 
seem that the uplifted glass would not be put down even if some 
fellow-reveller warned the drinker, ' Don't drink this, it is beastly.' 
If the desire for port were based upon some antecedent desire 
other than desire for the pleasure of port-drinking, it would 
seem that the warning must necessarily pass unheeded. It may 
possibly be urged that what the man wants is both port and 
nice port : but that of course is to admit the opponent's case ; 
the desire for pleasant sensation is one of his desires : he does 
desire pleasant sensation just because it is pleasant, whatever he 
desires or does not desire besides. 


There can be no doubt that many even of what are called our 
sensual pleasures are conditioned by the presence of some desire 
which cannot be described as a desire for pleasure, or by some 
want or appetite of a kind which it is better perhaps to distinguish 
from the more rational class of ' disinterested desires/ There is 
a pleasure in getting warm when I am cold, in eating when I am 
hungry, and so on. But are all pleasures of sense of this kind ? 
Such a contention seems to be opposed to the most familiar experi- 
ence. I certainly often rise from my chair and stand before the 
fire, though I am not in the least cold, simply because experience 
has shown me that the practice is attended with pleasure. The 
continental stove may more than satisfy our desire of warmth, 
but Englishmen persist nevertheless in preferring their un- 
economical open fires. The medical profession would be ruined 
if there were no pleasure in eating after hunger is satisfied, 
or if such pleasure could not become the object of desire. More- 
over, the pleasure is in many cases quite independent of any 
previous desire at all whether for that pleasure or for anything 
else. Where the pleasure arises from the satisfaction of desire, 
the pleasure cannot be felt when the desire is absent. If know- 
ledge is forced on those who have no desire for knowledge, 
its attainment is often found by no means conducive to pleasure. 
But the teetotaler's appreciation of rum and milk might be by no 
means lessened by the fact that the rum had been surreptitiously 
introduced into the innocent beverage for which his soul had 
craved. That the pleasures of smell and sight and hearing 
are independent of previous desire attracted the especial notice 
of Plato. And while this independence of previous desire is 
characteristic of certain kinds of mere sensation, it is not limited 
to sensual pleasures. It is especially, I think, characteristic 
of the aesthetic pleasures. My appreciation of a landscape or 
a picture is in no way diminished because it comes in my way 
at a moment when I am thinking of something quite different, 
And if it be said that it appeals to me only because it satisfies 
a permanent desire for the beautiful which is capable of being 
aroused by the presentation of that which will satisfy it, one 
may ask, How in the first instance is the desire of beauty 
aroused ? ' Is it normally the case that people are led to the 


search for beauty by a craving for what they have never ex- 
perienced as many both of the highest desires and of the lowest 
appetites do undoubtedly exist before they have received any 
satisfaction at all ? Is it not rather some new, some unsought 
for, some wholly unanticipated experience of the pleasantness 
of beholding beautiful things which first rouses the desire to see 
more beautiful things ? 

I cannot but think that few even of those who deny the 
possibility of a 'sum of pleasures' will agree with Dr. Caird 
in holding that even particular pleasures cannot be the object 
of desire. But then it may be said : ' Yes, a pleasure may be 
desired, but not pleasure a particular pleasure but not pleasure 
in general.' I have already admitted that we can never desire 
to enjoy pleasure alone ; the pleasure must always come from 
some feeling, thought, or volition. So obvious a truism has 
so far as I am aware, never been denied. But need we always 
set our heart upon the enjoyment of some particular pleasant 
thing? There is something in common between all the things 
which give us pleasure : and that something is surely capable of 
being made the object of pursuit. When a boy begins to smoke, 
he is certainly not influenced by the desire of the characteristic 
smoker's pleasure, which he has never enjoyed and will not enjoy, 
very probably, for some time to come. There can be no image 
before his mind of a definite pleasant content ; he does not know 
what the smoker's pleasure is, but he knows what pleasure in 
general is, and knows that he likes all kinds of pleasure. His 
notion of pleasure is made up by abstraction from all the 
pleasures he has ever enjoyed ; there is no image of any 
particular pleasure before his mind. And, when he has gathered 
from the relation of credible witnesses that smoking is a source 
of pleasure, that is enough to set him in pursuit of it. If 
a booth were set up in a fair with the announcement ' Pleasure 
here 6cZ./ it is possible that it would not attract a large number 
of sixpences because there might be doubts as to the probabilities 
of the promised article being really supplied ; but it does seem 
to me a strange position to deny the psychological possibility 
of some one individual paying his sixpence, not (as it is very 
likely some would do) for the pleasure of satisfying curiosity 


but with the definite expectation of getting a fair sixpennyworth 
of enjoyment, and a broad-minded indifference as to the par- 
ticular species supplied so long of course as it was a pleasure 
to him. 

I feel some diffidence in attempting a solemn argument in 
defence of a thesis which (with all respect for the eminent 
persons who deny it) seems to me so obviously true ; and I 
confess I find it difficult to understand what exactly it is that 
is really meant to be denied when it is said that pleasure 
cannot be an object of desire. Is it the obvious fact that what 
we each care about is not all pleasure equally, but the particular 
pleasures which appeal to us? That is quite true, but then 
of course that which gives me no pleasure will not satisfy my 
desire of pleasure ; nor shall I be much influenced by a desire for 
the pleasures which, though they are pleasant, I care little about, 
or which cannot be attained without sacrificing objects about 
which I care more than for such pleasures perhaps more than 
for any pleasure small or great. Or is it implied that, though 
I do desire all pleasant things which really are pleasant to me, 
I do not desire them in proportion to their pleasantness? I 
agree, but that is only to say that I desire other things besides 
pleasure, and moreover that (speaking generally) the pleasures 
best worth having spring from the satisfaction of desires other 
than the desire for pleasure. All that has been admitted. What 
I contend for is that it is possible for a man to desire and that 
all or almost all men do desire pleasant things simply because 
they are pleasant, and that, ceteris pavibus (where no difference 
of quality enters into the consideration and where no other desire 
would be thwarted), they desire the pleasanter things more than 
those that are less pleasant. That is what I understand to 
be meant by the assertion that pleasure (and not merely par- 
ticular pleasures) is a possible object of desire. 

There is one more line of argument which I would briefly 
suggest. Will those who deny that we desire pleasure, maintain 
that we have no aversion to pain? Here it can hardly be 
contended that it is merely certain particular psychical states 
which merely happen to be painful which inspire aversion, 
or that it is not the pain as such that we try to avoid, but 

Chap, i, ii] WE AVOID ALL PAIN 13 

merely the frustration of some other desire, of which pain is 
a mere accidental accompaniment. It is, of course, often the 
case that pain is the symptom of something organically wrong, 
and again ^hat mental pains do largely result from the frustra- 
tion of some desire. Bub there are many conditions of body 
to which we should have no objection for any other reason 
than that they happen to be painful. Who would care about 
being told by a Physiologist that certain thrills are coursing 
down his nerves, if they did not reveal themselves in painful 
sensation : or that there was caries in his tooth, if he could 
be sure that the tooth would never become either painful or 
less useful? If you will insist on abstracting the content of 
pain from the pain itself, it is surely the pain that we avoid, 
not the content. We avoid pains, the content of which we know 
nothing about. We do not think it necessary to try new pains 
which we cannot without experience even picture to the im- 
agination, under the expectation that, though other pains are 
to be avoided, it might turn out that this pain was rather 
desirable than otherwise. If we know that the psychical state 
produced by such and such a bodily affection is painful, that 
is quite enough for us. Unless they suppose the pain to be 
a means to something other than itself or an inseparable element 
in some other good, all rational men avoid it : and it will hardly 
be denied that they avoid the severer pains more than the less 
severe. All pains are to them an object of aversion, and objects 
of aversion in proportion to their painfulness. That is what 
is meant by saying that pain as such is an object of aversion. 
I do not know that any one who admits that pain is an object 
of aversion but still denies that pleasure is a possible object 
of desire can be convicted of any actual logical inconsistency : 
but the position is, to say the least of it, a singular one. 

(6) But, as I have already indicated, there are writers whose 
denial that pleasures can be summed or that a sum of pleasures 
can be desired does not carry with it the assertion either that 
pleasures are not possible objects of desire or even that pleasure in 
general may not become the object of pursuit. Their objection to 
a summation of pleasures rests upon other grounds ; and seems 
for the most part (so far as I can gather) to be based upon the 


very simple fact that we cannot enjoy a sum of pleasures all 
at once that a sum of pleasures is not capable of existing 
altogether at a given moment of time. Perhaps the best way 
of dealing with this objection will be to point out that the 
contention is as fatal to the existence of a desire for pleasure, 
or even for one single definite pleasure, as to the desire for a sum 
of pleasures. The briefest pleasure occupies a sensible time : 
and there is no time that cannot conceivably be subdivided into 
two halves. If, therefore, I cannot desire anything which I 
cannot have all at once, I could not desire either pleasant 
consciousness in general or any particular state of consciousness 
which is pleasant. The argument in fact goes further than this : 
it would prove not merely that pleasure cannot be desired, but 
that there can be no such thing as pleasure, since an indivisible 
point of pleasure could not be felt at all and therefore would not 
be pleasure. If so, of course, cadit quaestio. But I must ask 
to be excused from attempting the task of proving to the sceptic 
that the word pleasure signifies something which has actual 
existence \ Assuming that there is such a thing as pleasure, 
it must (at least for human beings here and now) be in time : 
and the time or the temporal state that is incapable of division 
is not time or in time at all. We have heard, of course, of 
the timeless self and its aspirations after a good which, though 
it is not in time, is, it seems, to have a beginning, and to be 
capable of being brought about by human acts which take place 
within the time-series : but I am not aware that the supporters 
of the timeless self have usually assigned to it a timeless pleasure 2 . 
At all events, if any such thing there be, it must be something 
quite different from what I and, I am persuaded, the majority 
of my readers understand by the word. AH I understand 
a sum of pleasures, every pleasure is really a sum of pleasures : 

1 The reader may possibly demand at this point a definition. Something 
will be said on this subject at the end of the next chapter. Here I will only 
remark that most of the attempts at definition fail so grotesquely that I feel 
little inclination to add to the number. 

2 It is true that Dr. McTaggart has suggested the possibility for beings 
in another state of a ' timeless pleasure,' but he does not regard such a 
pleasure as possible in our present condition. As far as this life is con- 
cerned, he admits the possibility of a ' sum of pleasures.' 

Chap, i, ii] EVERY PLEASURE IS A SUM 15 

it is impossible to desire pleasure at all without desiring a sum 
of pleasures. What I understand by the assertion that I desire 
a sum of pleasures is that I desire to enjoy pleasure as intense 
as possible, and for as long as possible that I desire two 
minutes' pleasure more than I desire one minute of the same 
pleasure, and further that I regard the intensity of one pleasant 
moment as something which can be equated with the duration 
of another pleasant state ; so that, on comparing the duration and 
intensity of pleasure which will be secured by one course of 
conduct with the duration and intensity of pleasure which I may 
win by another, I can pronounce which on the whole appears 
to me to possess the greatest pleasure-value, and can (in so far 
as I am in pursuit of pleasure to the disregard of other con- 
siderations) determine my action by that judgement. 

Professor Green's argument against the idea that something 
which cannot be enjoyed all at once can be the swnmnm bonum 
does not directly concern us here, but it seems to me open to 
much the same objections as have been urged against the denial 
that a sum of pleasures is a possible object of desire. His 
argument seems to amount to the assertion that a sum of 
pleasures cannot be made the object of pursuit because you 
can never reach it, while a greatest possible sum of pleasures 
is a contradiction in terms, since when you have enjoyed any 
given amount of pleasure, it is always still possible to desire 
more. I should myself be prepared to contend that any other 
view of the ethical end is liable to the same objection, since 
any good for man must be in time, and can never be seized 
once for all as a Krf/jza t$ &ti\ I am not, however, arguing that 
a sum of pleasures is the true ethical end, but only that it is 
an intelligible object of pursuit. To aim at a greatest possible 
sum of pleasures means to endeavour that as much pleasure 
should be got into a given time as possible and that the time in 
which we are enjoying pleasure should be as long as possible. 
Nobody, I take it, has ever maintained the possibility of arriving 
at a sum of pleasures in any other sense. The greater durability 
of some sources of satisfaction as compared with others is no doubt 
an important reason for the higher value we attribute to them, but 
the consciousness which enjoys even the most spiritual good must 


be in time ; the enjoyment of it can never be so far exhausted that 
we can say that an addition to it would be no addition to the 
good hitherto enjoyed. To argue that a sum of pleasures cannot 
be the good because they cannot be enjoyed all at oroe is about 
as reasonable as to argue that the virtues cannot be the good 
because they cannot all be practised in an ' atomic now ' or even 
during the same five minutes 1 . 


(2) It is asserted that whereas the proposition ' this pleasure 
is greater than that* has a meaning, the judgement is not 

The idea that degree involves quantity has been pronounced 
by Prof. Mackenzie a crude notion 2 ; but it is a crude notion 
which has commended itself (unless I greatly misunderstand 
them) to Kant, to Prof. Bosanquet 3 , and on the whole to Mr. Bradley. 
I do not propose to discuss the matter more in detail as a matter 
of pure Logic, but will simply refer to Mr. Bradley's very subtle 
paper on the question : ' What do we mean by the intensity of 
psychical states ? 4 ' I do not underrate the difficulty, insisted 
upon by Mr. Bradley with his usual penetration, of saying 
exactly what it is that there is more of in one psychical state 
a state of pleasure or a state of heat than in another. But 
Mr. Bradley, though his discussion is aporetic, seems to be 
indisposed to deny that, however this question be answered, 

1 ' So long as we exist in time, the supreme good, whatever it is perfec- 
tion, self-realisation, the good will will have to manifest itself in a series 
of states of consciousness ' (McTaggart, Studies in Hegelian Cosmology, p. 109). 
* It will, I believe, be found . . . that, reasonably or unreasonably, we are con- 
tinually making calculations of pleasures and pains, that they have an 
indispensable place in every system of morality, and that any system which 
substitutes perfection for pleasure as a criterion of moral action also in- 
volves the addition and subtraction of other intensive quantities. If such 
a process is unjustifiable, it is not hedonism only, but all ethics, which will 
become unmeaning 1 (ib., p. in). 

2 Social Philosophy, and ed., p. 230. 

8 ' A quality that changes, and yet remains the same quality, has passed 
into quantity * (Principles of Logic, I, p. 118). 
4 Mind, N. S., Vol. IV (1895). Cf Ethical Studies, p. 107. 


the judgement is quantitative. And I find it difficult to 
treat seriously the assertion to the contrary. We certainly 
say : ' This is more pleasant than that V The position that 
the word *more does not involve the idea of quantity is so 
startling that I must excuse myself from further discussion 
of it until it be developed in more detail than has yet been 
the case. It is true that ' intensive quantity ' is not the same 
thing as ' extensive quantity ' ; but if ' intensive quantity ' has 
nothing in common with ' extensive quantity * why do Philosophy 
and Common Sense alike call each of them * quantity ' ? 

Whatever be thought of the logical doctrine that degree 
does not involve quantity, it is enough for my present purpose 
if it be admitted that one whole state of, consciousness of a 
certain character is pronounced more pleasant than another, 
provided it be conceded also: (a) that the total pleasure in 
each case is made up of a number of successive moments; 
(b) that a certain degree of intensity is actually judged to 
be the equivalent of and may influence desire and volition 
as the equivalent of a certain degree of duration : in other 
words, that a man in pursuit of pleasure may choose, and may 
judge it reasonable to choose, a less pleasure for a longer time 
rather than an intenser pleasure for a shorter time ; (c) that 
a whole pleasant state may be analysed into various distinguish- 
able elements. 

The first two of these propositions can hardly, as it seems 
to me, be denied without going the length of saying that the 
duration of a pleasure, if it only be intense enough, is a matter 
of absolute indifference to us. And it has been contended by 

1 That Mr. Bradley believes it possible to sum pleasures may, I think, be 
inferred from his elaborate discussions as to whether, in the Absolute, there 
is or is not a ' balance of pleasure/ Such passages as the following could 
have no meaning if it were not possible to add pleasure and pain together, 
arrive at their sum and subtract the pleasure from the pain or the pain from 
the pleasure : ' We found that there is a balance of pleasure over and 
above pain, and we know from experience that in a mixed state such a 
balance may be pleasant. And we are sure that the Absolute possesses and 
enjoys somehow this balance of pleasure. But to go further seems impossible . 
Pleasure may conceivably be so supplemented and modified by addition, that 
it does not remain precisely that which we call pleasure * (Appearance and 
Reality, p. 534). 


Prof. Mackenzie that those who maintain the possibility of 
adopting the hedonistic calculus as a guide in conduct are involved 
in some such absurdity. 

* But, it may be said, we can surely estimate pleasures at least 
with reference to their duration. I may be aware that at each 
of two successive moments I have a pleasure of approximately 
the same degree ; and I may thus be entitled to say that the 
pleasures of these two moments taken together are twice as 
great as the pleasure of one of them alone would have been. 
Surely i -f i = 2. Now, to this the obvious answer is that it is 
indeed true that i + 1 = 2, but it is also true that i + I i = i. 
When the second pleasure is added the first is taken away, 
and there is only one left. If I have only one pleasure now, 
I am none the richer for the fact that I had another before. 
It is true that I may survey my life as a whole, and perceive 
that I was pleased at so many different moments ; and it might 
be an amiable hobby on my part to try to make the number of 
pleasant moments as large as possible. But I should not be 
any the better off for such an effort. At the present moment 
I am just as happy as I am, and no happier: I am not also 
as happy as I was, or as happy as I shall be. In the past, on 
the other hand, I was as happy as I was ; and in the future 
I shall be as happy as I shall be. Every moment stands on its 
own basis ; and the number of moments makes no difference to 
the happiness of life as a whole, because, according to such 
a view, life is not a whole. " A short life and a merry one " is 
as happy as a long one. A moment of blessedness ' [upon the 
hypothesis that pleasures can be summed] * would be as good as 
an eternity, because the eternity would only go on repeating the 
blessedness and not increasing it V 

I can only say that most of us would attach considerable 
value to what Prof. Mackenzie dismisses with a contemptuous 
' only/ If we could attain this moment of blessedness, that is 
exactly what we should want that it should be repeated as 
often as possible. There is no arguing about these matters of 
psychological experience and ethical judgement. I can only say 
that as a matter of fact I would not take the trouble to walk 
1 Social Philosophy, pp. 231, 232. 

Chap, i, iii] NO HUMAN GOOD TIMELESS 19 

across the street to get a moment of blessedness if I were 
assured that the blessedness would occupy my consciousness 
only for ~^ of a second l . I will add once more a reminder 
too of tea forgotten in the polemics of an ti- hedonists of the 
parallel case of pain. Prof. James has somewhere remarked 
that the utmost degree of torture of which human consciousness 
is capable would be a matter of supreme indifference to him if he 
could be assured that it would last only some intinitesimal time. 
Would Prof. Mackenzie be prepared to say that, if condemned to 
such a torture, it would be a matter of indifference to him how 
long it went on ? 

Now it is true that Prof. Mackenzie is here indulging in 
what appears to him a reductio ad absurdum of the hedonistic 
view of Ethics. But I fail to see how he can himself escape 
adopting such a consequence as his own except by insisting that 
the good, which is the true end of human life, is something out 
of time altogether, a view which, however unintelligible, is open 
to writers like Green who did not regard pleasure as a good 
at all, but does not seem to be open to those who, like Prof. 
Mackenzie, do regard pleasure as a good and part of the good. 
There is just the same logical difficulty about any view which 
admits pleasure to be a good at all. A pleasure, however brief, 
can be enjoyed only while it is there : it can be enjoyed after- 
wards only in so far as the recollection of the past pleasure 
is itself a fresh pleasure. It is true that the possibility of 
such recollection implies the belief in a continuous or permanent 
self which is denied by such writers as Hume; but Hume's 
view of the self is not involved in the recognition of the hedon- 
istic calculus as a possible and (as far as it goes) a rational 
proceeding. If pleasure be of any importance at all, it must 
follow, it seems to me, that ceterix par'djus its importance must 
be proportional to its duration. And, as I have already sug- 

1 If what is wanted is a timeless ' blessedness,' though personally I attach no 
meaning to such an expression, we may usefully remember Dr. McTaggart's 
distinction: 'Absolute perfection the supreme good is not quantitative. 
But we shall not reach absolute perfection by any action which we shall 
have a chance of taking to-day or to-morrow. And of the degrees of per- 
fection it is impossible to speak except quantitatively * (Studies in Hegelian 
Cosmology, p. 113). 


gested, exactly the same line of objection may be taken to 
regarding as the good any possible state of a conscious being 
which is in time. If it may be argued that, supposing pleasure 
to be the good, a moment of it ought to be as good as an 
eternity, then why not a moment of holiness or a moment of 
'Self -realization 1 ? If the ' self-realization ' which Prof. Mac- 
kenzie wants is not in time at all, how can it be an object of 
human effort ? If it is in time, would he not think a longer 
duration of it better than a shorter ? 

If then duration of pleasure is desired as well as intensity 
of pleasure, will it be denied that, in choosing between two 
pleasures (i. e. between the psychical consequences of alternative 
acts of choice), we do balance duration against intensity, and 
choose that which promises most pleasure on the whole the 
discomforts of a four hours' passage on a good boat against 
the horrors of two hours on a bad one, or (if income be severely 
limited) the three hours of fierce delight (plus a certain amount 
of retrospective pleasure afterwards) which five shillings will 
buy at a theatre against the calmer but more prolonged enjoy- 
ment of a five-shilling book ? This is all at bottom that is meant 
by the much-decried idea of a hedonistic calculus all perhaps 
that it is absolutely necessary to contend for. But there is, 
as I have suggested, one point more not perhaps absolutely 
essential to the idea, but usually implied in it, and it is this 
probably which is most apt to be denied by the more moderate 
of those who object to the expression ' sum of pleasures ' 
and that is the notion that the total whole of pleasant conscious- 
'ness is made up of distinguishable elements. I say distin- 
guishable, i.e. logically distinguishable, not capable of actual 
separation. My consciousness at any given moment is no doubt 
a whole which cannot be separated into parts like a material 
object, but it in possible to distinguish in the total ' psychosis ' 
many different elements. Sometimes the elements are capable 
of being distinguished even to the extent of retaining ap- 
proximately when in combination the pleasurableness or pain- 
fulness which they have when separate. Thus I may be 
conscious at one and the same time of a pain in my toe, 
another in my head, and a pleasant interest in the story that 


I am reading. At other times, and this is generally the case, 
no doubt, where no definitely localized pain enters into con- 
sciousness, the elements seem so far fused together that it 
is only by ,a considerable effort of reflection (aided by memories 
which enable me to apply the method of difference or of con- 
comitant variations) that I can distinguish how much of my 
total pleasant state is due to the different elements. That 
is the case, for instance, when I ask myself how much of 
the general sense of exhilaration which I have experienced 
at a pleasant party was due to the dinner, how much to the 
champagne, how much to the company; or when I attempt 
to say how much of my depression is due to biliousness and 
how much to the disappointment or annoyance on which at 
such seasons I may be apt to brood. 

And yet, in spite of all the difficulties of such discrimination, 
we do make such distinctions in reflecting upon past pleasures, 
and we use the result of such experiences in guiding our choice 
for the future. We have two invitations for the same night. We 
might say to ourselves : * True, A's dinner will be less sumptuous 
than JS's, but I like B's superior wine better than A's superior 
cookery, and the conversation will be much better. Therefore 
to B's I will go, and A's invitation I will decline/ It is true 
of course and this seems to be the only serious difficulty in 
treating such cases as a summation of pleasures that the 
hedonistic value of a pleasure in combination with others may be 
something quite different from its value when taken by itself, 
or rather (since we never do enjoy an assignable pleasure 
absolutely ' by itself ') when experienced in a different psychical 
setting or context. The dinner which helps us to enjoy the 
evening in pleasant company would simply bore the man who is 
not a gourmand, if consumed in solitude or in the company 
of dull persons. The values that we sum are altered by the 
summing or rather by the combination. And this objection may 
be treated as fatal to the whole idea of a 'sum of pleasures/ 
But after all it is not the values that they have in separation but 
the values that they have as elements in the whole that we are 
summing; though our experience of them in separation or in 
other surroundings may be more or less of a help in estimating 


how much they will contribute to our enjoyment of the total 
consciousness into which they enter. It is true that my enjoy- 
ment of a certain man's company may be either greater or less 
when I meet him in a Swiss hotel than when I meet him in 
a College common-room: but that does not prevent my ex- 
perience of his society in Oxford leading me to think that 
his presence will be a material addition to my enjoyment at 
such and such a Swiss hotel and determining me to go there 
in preference to one which I should otherwise have decidedly 
preferred. It is then undeniable (as it seems to me) that we can 
distinguish elements in a whole of pleasant consciousness. The 
society of my friend and the enjoyment of Alpine scenery may 
give me a total of pleasure both greater and different in kind 
than I should derive from the two taken separately. But that 
does not prevent my putting together in my mind the probable 
enjoyment which I shall derive from the scenery and the prob- 
able enjoyment which I shall derive from the company of my 
friend, and recognizing that the two elements go to form a 
whole of pleasure which is greater than either. If on comparing 
any two whole psychoses I find that one would be preferable to 
the other but would become less desirable when a certain assign- 
able element is taken away, there is surely a real meaning in 
saying that such a whole of pleasure is a sum of pleasures. No 
doubt, as the Logicians remind us, the whole is something more 
than the sum of its parts ; but the expressions ' whole ' and ' part ' 
have a real meaning for all that: the whole is the sum of its 
parts, though it is something more. Or to take a more concrete 
and material parallel, I may judge how many pailfuls of water 
it will take to fill a cistern by adding together the capacity 
of each pail, though I must not forget to allow for the con- 
siderable quantity which will be lost in the process of adding 
them together, or the quantity that will be added if it is raining. 


(3) There remains for discussion our third and last thesis: 
that, though one pleasure may be greater than another, it can 
never be described as twice as greatthat degrees of pleasure 
cannot be numerically expressed. 


The question raised by this assertion is to my mind much 
more difficult and debatable than any that we have so far 
discussed, and the assertion that pleasures do admit of arith- 
metical measurement is in no way necessary to justify us in 
talking abdut a sum of pleasure or a hedonistic calculus. I hasten 
to add that as a general rule our judgements about pleasure are 
expressed in the form of ' more ' or ' less/ not of so many times 
more or less. It is only in the simplest cases that we can 
attempt to compare pleasures with so much nicety ; and, as such 
judgements are of no practical use, we do not commonly make 
them. Still, I am prepared to maintain that the judgement 
' this pleasure is twice as great as that ' is not absolutely without 
meaning. In the first place, it appears to me self-evident that 
the value of a pleasure is dependent upon its duration, and that 
two minutes of a given pleasure may be fairly said to be twice 
as pleasant as one minute of it if it is really the same pleasure 
and is not diminished by satiety. Further, if it be admitted 
that we are in the habit of equating the intensity of pleasure 
with a certain duration of it, it would seem possible to indicate 
our sense of the comparative intensity of two pleasures by 
expressing them (so to speak) in terms of duration. If it is 
a matter of indifference to me whether I enjoy one minute 
of one pleasure or two minutes of another, I may reasonably be 
said to regard the one pleasure as twice as pleasant as the other l . 
Even in far more complicated cases even in estimating the 
extent to which various elements contribute to a total state 
of continuous pleasure it does not seem to be meaningless 
to express one's sense of the comparative value of the different 
elements by assigning to them numerical values. In comparing 
one friend's dinners with another's there would be nothing 
unmeaning though for many practical reasons we rather avoid 
such exact mensuration of pleasures in assigning so many 
marks to the dinner, so many to the wine, so many to the 
conversation with (if you like) a few plus or minus marks 
for the arrangement of the table, the post-prandial music and 

1 ' I feel no hesitation in affirming that the pleasure I get from a plate of 
turtle-soup is more than twice the pleasure I get from a plate of pea-soup ' 
(McTaggait, I.e., p. 117). 


so on. We might express our sense of the comparative enjoy- 
ment afforded by the two entertainments and the extent to 
which each element contributes to the total, by assigning marks 
to each such element and then adding them together. I admit 
that such numerical expressions would in general "be wholly 
useless, but it would correctly express the sort of way in which 
we do make up our minds between alternative courses by a 
mental or ideal summation of the pleasure which we expect 
to derive from them. When we have decided on which side the 
balance lies, we usually stop, because when we have determined 
that we are going to prefer A'n entertainment to J?'s, no purpose 
is served by attempting to estimate or to express the degree 
of our preference. As a general rule there would be no use 
in such an attempt, but it is possible with a little ingenuity 
to imagine circumstances in which it would be of use. If 
a prize were offered to the host who would give us most pleasure 
in the course of six entertainments with or without a certain 
limit to the expense, the judges in such a competition would, 
I imagine, have to record their impressions of each entertainment 
in some such way very much as a man who is judging prize 
poems might quite intelligibly (though I do not recommend the 
method) arrive at his decision by assigning so many marks for 
language, so many for ideas, so many for rhythm, and so on. 
To avoid an irrelevant objection I admit at once that it is very 
rarely only, perhaps, in regard to the choice of mere amusements, 
and not always then that we do make our conduct depend 
upon such purely hedonistic calculations, unmodified by other 
considerations. But, if there seems to be something rather 
tasteless and repellent about the analysis of these hedonistic 
calculations for ourselves, we have constantly to make them for 
others. A man who has determined to provide a school treat 
for a number of children, and to devote thereto a definite sum of 
money, aims, I suppose, at producing a maximum of pleasure ; 
though I have heard a Moral Philosopher of some distinction 
gravely express a doubt as to whether the good will could ever 
express itself by giving pleasure to others. The giver of such a 
treat knows that, if he provides fireworks, he must cut down the 
prizes for races, that if he gives the children a better class 


of cake he will not be able to give them sweets too, and so on. 
If it helped him (and it is quite possible that it would help 
an old Schoolmaster) to express the value of the pleasure which 
each shilling expended in different ways would buy by assigning 
marks to ach item and then totting them up, I do not see that 
there would be anything essentially unmeaning or irrational 
about his procedure. No doubt in such cases our estimates are 
exceedingly rough, but that does not make it actually impossible 
to express our judgement in numbers. It is far easier to say 
that one flock of sheep is bigger than another than to say by 
how many it is bigger, but that does not alter the fact that 
if one flock is bigger than another, it is because it contains more 
sheep. Our estimate is none the less quantitative because it 
is vague l . 

But I have not yet done justice to Prof. Mackenzie's strongest 
argument. He tells us that the proposition 'this is twice as 
pleasant as that/ is as unmeaning as the judgement ' this is 
twice as hot as that/ Now it is to my mind undeniable that in 
the case of sensible heat or of any other sensations which admit 
of being arranged in a scale, quantitative measurement is essen- 
tially impossible. But I contend that pleasure does not belong 
to this category at all, and I will try to show why. The reason 
why it is impossible to express degrees of sensible heat quantita- 
tively is that there is no equivalence between the difference be- 
tween any two degrees of sensible heat and the difference between 
any two other degrees 2 . Let the line A Z represent the various 
possible degrees of sensible heat ranging from a coldest A to 
a hottest Z (of course I do not attempt to answer the physio- 
logical question whether there is a minimum or maximum of 
possible sensible heat). 

A B C D E F Z. 

The reason why I cannot mark off this line into degrees to which 
I might assign numbers like the numbers which express the de- 

1 Attempts have been made to show that such judgement may be only 
qualitative (e. g. the unreflecting and unanalysed judgements of savages) ; 
but they are not convincing. 

9 It may be that for many practical purposes it may conveniently be 
assumed that the degree of sensible heat will correspond to the degree of 
the physical stimulus. 


grees of physical heat on a thermometer is that I cannot say that 
D is as much hotter than C as F is hotter than X *. But in com- 
paring pleasures I have no difficulty in doing this 3 . If I would as 

1 This position is admirably defended by M. Bergson in his Essav sur les 
donntes immtdiates de la Conscience (4 me ed., 1904), pp. 42 seq. I cannot, 
however, follow him in his attempt to show that there is no meaning even 
in saying that one psychical state is more intense than another that 
psychical states differ only qualitatively, and that there is no such thing 
as intensive quantity. Is it possible to deny that we can arrange feelings 
of heat or sensations of blue in a scale entirely apart from the association of 
these sensations with their physical causes ? M. Bergson demands what it 
is of which there is more in one such state than another. No doubt this 
' something more ' is something which cannot be isolated and experienced 
by itself : we do not, in experiencing a sensation of dark blue, experience 
a sensation of light blue -f another distinct sensation. That would no doubt 
involve the fallacy of * mental chemistry.' But in denying that a sensation 
of light blue has in it something in common with a sensation of dark blue, 
he seems to fall into the fallacy of psychological Atomism. He does well to 
insist on the uniqueness of all psychical experience. It is true that our 
concept of blue is not any particular sensation with all its particularity, 
and that each degree of a sensation has a quality of its own which cannot be 
expressed quantitatively : but, unless conceptual thought could detect some- 
thing common in various experiences of oneself or others, it would not only 
be an inadequate representation of reality, but would have no resemblance 
or correspondence to it whatever : it would be a mere delusion to suppose 
that one mind could know anything whatever of another's mental state, or 
even of its own past states. Surely psychical states may resemble each 
other, and resemble in different degrees : M. Bergson would find it hard 
to refute Mr. Bradley's doctrine that resemblance = identity -f difference. 
Still more unsuccessful does M. Bergson seem to me in his attempt to show 
that there is no quantity even in real ' duration ' (duration as it is actually 
experienced). He is highly instructive in pointing out many mistakes 
which have originated in the transference to Time of the characteristics of 
Space : he is less convincing when he contends that Time and Space have 
nothing whatever in common : and that the application of the idea of 
Quantity to mental states arises not merely from a transference, but from an 
illegitimate transference of spatial ideas to the case of time. But this ques- 
tion is too large a one to be discussed here : suffice it to say that I admit it is 
only because we estimate a certain duration of a pleasure to be of equal value 
to a certain increase of intensity that we can intelligibly think of the 
interval between a degree of pleasure A and a degree B as being as great as 
that between B and C, and so speak of a greater or less sum of pleasure. 
Those who deny this ought to follow M. Bergson in denying that we can 
measure even the duration of pleasures. 

8 Of course from the merely hedonistic point of view. 

Chap, i, iv] ILLUSTRATIONS 37 

soon have pleasure X raised to Fas pleasure C (lower down on the 
scale) raised to D, then I can intelligibly say that the difference 
between X and Y is equivalent to the difference between C and D. 
To take a concrete case : if a bank clerk is offered an addition of 
50 a year to his salary or a diminution of his day's work 
by half an hour, and were, after consideration, conducted wholly 
on hedonistic grounds, to say ' I really don't care/ we should be 
entitled to say that the pleasure 'which he would obtain by the 
expenditure of 50 made up of course by an addition of the 
pleasure derived from so much better eating and drinking, so 
many more nights at the theatre, or from so many more books 
and a more enjoyable summer holiday was the equivalent of 
the enjoyment which he would derive from 280 half-hours' 
leisure. It may be said that after all we have here only quanti- 
tative equality, not numerically defined inequality. But then 
it might be argued that the enjoyment of say 280 half -hours' 
leisure is made up of the pleasure derivable from the repetition 
280 times of the enjoyment derivable from one half-hour's 
leisure. The amount of pleasure derived from an extra half- 
hour would of course in fact vary on different days ; but he 
would expect a certain average of enjoyment on each day : and 
it would therefore be quite intelligible to say that the pleasure 
derived from 50 of additional income would be exactly 280 
times the pleasure derivable on an average from half an hour's 
additional leisure. Once again it must be admitted there seems 
something rather childish in such calculations which are never 
made in practice any more than we attempt to say by how 
many grains one heap of sand is bigger than another. Never- 
theless, I maintain that in such cases the judgement is quanti- 
tative and might (so long as we confine ourselves to quite simple 
cases) intelligibly be reduced to numbers T . The fact that we 
can have a very decided and well-grounded opinion that one 
total is larger than the other total, while any attempt to express 

1 It may be suggested that in such calculations our thought becomes more 
and more abstract, and BO leaves out elements of which in the concrete we 
really take account. This to a certain extent I admit ; but then it must be 
remembered that all thought is abstract, and so leaves out elements of 
our actual perceptive experience. 


our comparative estimate by numbers would be the wildest and 
most unprofitable guess-work, does not affect the question. The 
difficulties in the way of any exact mensuration of pleasures 
seem to me to be practical rather than theoretical. r Some of 
these difficulties are too obvious to mention, but there is one 
which it may be well to notice, because it is, I believe, at the 
bottom of many people's objection to the whole idea of a sum of 

It is sometimes assumed that we cannot sum pleasure unless 
we suppose pleasure to be made up of a number of isolated 
pleasures, as though quantity were necessarily discrete. But 
space and time and everything that occupies space and every- 
thing that occupies time possess quantity, and yet space is not 
made up of points or time of moments. Pleasure, like time and 
space, is a continuum. In measuring things in space and time 
we have recourse to arbitrarily chosen units. And, in so far 
as we are taking account of the duration of pleasures merely, 
the units of time are applicable also to the case of pleasures ; 
there is nothing essentially unmeaning in applying these units 
to the measurement of pleasures, and saying that a pleasure that 
lasts an hour is four times as great as one that lasts only for 
fifteen minutes. But such calculations are of little use to us, 
because as a rule we cannot assume that the same feelings, 
emotions, occupations or what not will continue to produce 
pleasure at the same rate for long periods which they produce 
for short periods. What interests us for five minutes would 
bore us in an hour ; and conversely things which would interest 
us if we had an hour to give to them would awaken no interest 
in five minutes. There are books which we do not care to read 
for less than an hour and others which we should not care to 
read for so long. Duration, therefore, though an important 
element in the mensuration of pleasures, does not often prac- 
tically help us much to an accurate measurement, even where we 
are dealing with the same external source of enjoyment: and, 
when we turn to the intensity of pleasures, the want of any 
satisfactory unit of pleasure is still more obvious. But the 


difficulty of saying how many units of pleasure there are in 
a given lot or sum of pleasure does not prevent our arriving 
at a mental estimate of its quantity and comparing it with the 
quantity of other pleasures just as an ignorant savage engaging 
to carry burdens across the Sahara may have very clear ideas 
of magnitude and weight without any knowledge of inches or 

That we make such comparisons and pronounce which of two 
stretches of consciousness is the more pleasant on the whole, 
seems to be admitted by some who still object to the term * sum 
of pleasures/ Such persons seem to mean that our estimate 
of the total pleasure that we shall get from one course of action 
as compared with what we shall get from another is arrived 
at without any previous mental addition or summing of pleasures. 
That we do not, as a rule, consciously divide up our prospective 
pleasure into units, and then do a sum in arithmetic, I have 
already admitted. But how we can arrive at an estimate of the 
amount of a whole without putting together a number of parts 
is to me unintelligible. When we are deciding in which of two 
ways we shall spend a day or a month devoted to recreation, 
do we not go over in imagination the various hours of the day or 
the probable occupations of the various days in a month, as it 
will be spent in each way, and make a rapid estimate (picturable 
in imagination, though not actually reduced to terms of any 
pleasure-unit) of the amount of pleasure which we shall get into 
each portion of it (though no doubt the portions are not neces- 
sarily marked oft* from each other by exact time-measurements), 
and then think which total is the largest ? If any one tells me he 
is not conscious of doing so, I should be quite prepared to admit 
that he really makes such calculations in a less conscious and 
deliberate way than I am at times conscious of doing myself. 
Indeed, I believe that the disputes which have arisen on this 
subject are very largely traceable to differences between the 
mental habit of individuals ; but the idea of a quantity a quan- 
tity occupying time which does not consist of parts, and is not 
made up of the addition of parts, will remain to most minds 
an unintelligible paradox. If it consists of parts, the parts must 
surely all be looked at before we can pronounce upon the 


pleasurableness of the whole. Whether we can take in the 
whole quantity of pleasure by (as it were) a single mental 
glance, or whether we mentally run over the parts in succession, 
is a mere accidental difference of psychological habit, I am no 
less summing the number of sheep in a flock when (as may be 
done by an experienced shepherd) I pronounce how many they 
are by a look at the whole flock together than when I have 
laboriously to count them. Further, I am directly conscious 
that in estimating the total of pleasure I take into account the 
intensity of successive time-reaches as well as their duration ; 
and this process can hardly be performed without thinking 
of the successive portions of time. If the whole time is likely 
to be equally pleasant, I may no doubt proceed at once to 
multiply (so to speak) intensity by duration: if the successive 
portions are likely to be very variable, I must surely think how 
much pleasure or pain there will be in each before I can say 
how much there will be in the whole. If such a process of 
estimating a total quantity after estimating the constituent 
quantities is not to be called addition and subtraction, I should 
be grateful to any Logician who will tell me more precisely 
what mental operation it is. At all events that is what I mean 
by summing pleasures. If anybody means the same thing but 
objects to the word, I can only say that I see no objection to 
it except the fact that it has been used by Hedonists, and that 
some people consider it necessary to object to everything which 
has been said by Hedonists : but the question of the word is 
of comparatively small importance. And if in the view of some 
of my readers I have not succeeded in hitting the exact point of 
their objection to the idea of a ' sum of pleasures/ I may bo 
allowed to add that I have never yet met two persons who 
are exactly agreed as to the grounds of their anathema. And 
with some Philosophers, as with some Theologians, the anathema 
is the great thing : the grounds of it matter less. 

One more of these objections may, however, demand a 
moment's notice. For some minds the objection to the notion 
of a sum of pleasures seems based upon the alleged impossibility 
of adding one man's pleasure to another's. It appears to be 
denied that two people's pleasure is more than the like pleasure 

Chap, i, vi] DIFFERENCES OF KIND 31 

of one person. Of course it may be possible to find senses 
in which this might be the case. In the mind of those who 
make the objection, the summing of the pleasure of different 
persons seems to carry with it some suggestion that pleasure 
is a thing that can be actually separated from the consciousness 
of the person enjoying it, divided into lots, and handed about 
from one person to another. If any one has fallen into such 
a confusion, I venture to submit that it is the people who object 
to the mental addition of different people's pleasure, and not the 
people who contend for its possibility. The objection seems, 
in fact, to be little more than a question of words. The question 
whether two people's pleasure is not twice the like pleasure 
in one person's consciousness must depend on the purpose for 
which the addition is to be used. The meaning which I attach 
to the assertion is that I regard a certain amount of pleasure 
in two persons as twice as important as the same amount in one ; 
and ceteris jxiribus I regard it as a duty to promote more 
pleasure than less pleasure. If this last proposition is to be 
denied, we have arrived at an ultimate difference of ethical ideal : 
if it be admitted, I do not see how duty is to be fulfilled without 
mentally multiplying the amount of pleasure by the number of 
persons enjoying that pleasure or (to avoid cavil) enjoying a like 
amount of pleasure. If this is admitted, where is the objection 
to the convenient phrase ' a sum of pleasure ' ? 


So far I have been dealing with the comparison of pleasures 
which are the same in kind that is, as I understand it, in which 
the greater or less pleasurableness of the two pleasures is the 
only ground upon which we base our judgement as to their 
comparative preferability. Is the case altered when one pleasure 
is higher than another ? It is impossible to answer the question 
without attempting to define what we mean by saying that one 
pleasure is higher than another. I have already endeavoured to 
show that, when we pronounce one pleasure higher than another, 
we mean that, though both of them are pleasant it may be 
equally pleasant the one is more valuable than the other for 
some other reason than its pleasantness. What I prefer is really 


the superior moral or intellectual quality of the pleasant psychical 
state, not its superior pleasantness. If I compare them simply 
as pleasures, I make abstraction of all qualities in them except 
their pleasantness. And pleasure in the strict s&nse of the 
word the abstract quality of pleasantness can differ from 
pleasure only in quantity, extensive or intensive. Hence it 
appears that, strictly speaking, there is no difference in quality 
between pleasures considered simply as such, though there may 
be between pleasures in the popular sense of the word, i.e. there 
may be difference in intrinsic value between two states of con- 
sciousness equally pleasant. The distinction would be con- 
veniently expressed by saying : ' Pleasure can be estimated only 
quantitatively, but pleasures may differ in kind ' ; or, ' Pleasures 
differ in kind, but not qua pleasures/ Some Philosophers who 
are not Hedonists may be prepared to deny that any distinction 
can be made between the value which things have as pleasure 
and the value which they have on other grounds, and to contend 
that our ethical judgement always refers simply to the ultimate 
value of a certain state of consciousness. Such a contention 
(to which I shall revert hereafter) would seem either ( i ) to bring 
back Hedonism under another name, or (2) to get rid of the idea 
of pleasure altogether. I am quite clear that in my own mind 
I make a distinction between the pleasantness of things and their 
value. As I understand the word * pleasure/ the less pleasant of 
two states of consciousness sometimes presents itself to me as the 
more valuable *. 

When it is said (as it is by some, though I cannot point to 
any published expression of that view) that pleasures differ 
in kind qua pleasures, I do not know what can be meant by the 
doctrine unless it be the undoubted and important fact that 
the pleasurableness of a total state of mind is inseparably bound 
up with the value that it has on other grounds. It is not a mere 
accident that various states of mind to which we attribute higher 
value than other states of mind on account of their intrinsic 
worth do happen to be also pleasant. When I say that the con- 
templation of beauty seems to be good as well as pleasant, while 
the sensation derived from eating turtle-soup seems to me 
1 See below, p. 50 seq. 

Chap, i, v] PLEASURE IN ALL GOOD 33 

pleasant but to possess a very low degree of goodness or ultimate 
value, I do not first form an estimate of the value which looking 
at the beautiful picture would have if it were not pleasant, and 
then add tj it the additional value which it derives from being 
also pleasant. The pleasantness of the aesthetic gratification 
is an essential part of my conception of it. I do not know what 
beauty would be like if it were not a source of pleasure, or 
whether I should attribute any value to it at all if it were not 
essentially pleasant ; and yet I am conscious that the pleasantness 
is not the sole source or measure of the value that I attach to it. 
All this seems to me perfectly true ; and it goes to show that com- 
parison between very heterogeneous pleasures simply in respect 
of their pleasantness is a very difficult and delicate proceeding. 
Fortunately it is for the most part useless and unnecessary, but 
not wholly so. It is often exceedingly difficult to say how much 
of the value we attribute to some occupation springs from its 
pleasantness, and how much from our sense of the value which 
it has on other grounds ; and yet that is what we must do when 
we compare a higher and a lower pleasure simply as pleasures. 
And such comparisons, though difficult, can be made. I may 
say to myself in a certain mood : ' I should get more pleasure 
from going to this farce than I should from going to that 
tragedy ' ; and yet I may say to myself : ' The tragedy is the 
nobler and higher pleasure ; therefore to the tragedy I will go/ 
On the other hand, if I were thinking only of amusement, and 
felt that in the circumstances it was right that I should think of 
pure amusement rather than of culture and aesthetic gratification, 
I might say : ' Though it is the lower pleasure, I will chocse 
it/ I do not think it can be denied that we do not unfrequentiy 
go through such a process sometimes for ourselves, more often 
in choosing pleasures for others. We should prefer to take 
a child to this elevating and aesthetic performance rather than to 
that somewhat vulgar pantomime, provided he will get a fair 
amount, though it may be a less amount, of pure amusement out 
of the former. But will he ? We want to satisfy ourselves of 
this before we decide against the pantomime. Life is full of such 
problems, and however much we may insist on the difficulties oi 
such comparisons, they have to be made and are made. 



It is thus possible, though it is difficult, to compare hetero- 
geneous pleasures simply in point of pleasantness. It is un- 
necessary to insist further on the difficulty or to analyse its 
causes more elaborately. But one very importaQt practical 
consideration may be pointed out. It is difficult and frequently 
undesirable to compare very heterogeneous alternative pleasures 
simply from the point of view of their quantitative intensity 
because to do so is to put oneself into a state of mind unfavour- 
able to a due appreciation of the higher kind of pleasure even 
as pleasure. I may enjoy (say) a sermon by a great preacher 
and a light but amusing novel The pleasures are very different 
pleasures ; but, as both are pleasures, it must, I should contend, 
be possible to say which is the greater pleasure when there is 
any very considerable difference in the pleasantness. I am 
certainly conscious that I have derived more pleasure from some 
sermons than from some novels, and equally so that I have 
derived more pleasure from some novelists than from some 
preachers. But, if I propose to make the question whether 
I will go to church and hear the preacher or stay at home and 
read such and such a novel turn wholly on the question which 
will be most pleasant, if I deliberately put out of sight all the 
considerations other than love of pleasure which may draw me 
to the preacher's feet, I should be putting myself into a state of 
mind in which I should be very likely greatly to underestimate 
the amount of pleasure which I really should get, were I to 
throw aside the book and go to church. Nay, more, supposing 
me to decide for church on these grounds, and supposing this 
voluntarily adopted mood to continue, I should be very likely 
to miss the pleasure ; for the pleasure in this case arises largely 
from the gratification of other desires than the desire for pleasure 
or for such kinds of pleasure as are common to the preacher 
and the novelist. These desires will ex hypothesi be in a state 
of repression, whereas I shall have stimulated my appetite for 
those pleasures which the novel would supply in greater 
abundance than the sermon. Considerations like these may 
show the inadvisability of frequently permitting ourselves to 
make these purely hedonistic comparisons between very hetero- 
geneous sources of enjoyment, but they do not disprove the 


fact that the comparison can be, and in some cases must be, 

The higher pleasure is, I have suggested, a pleasure to which 
we attribute value on other grounds than its mere pleasantness. 
The problem of the commensurability of pleasures has led us up 
to the more difficult and, ethically speaking, more important 
problem of the commensurability of goods. I have tried to show 
that it is possible to compare pleasures no matter how hetero- 
geneous and to say which is pleasantest. But is it possible to 
compare heterogeneous goods say, Virtue, Culture, and pleasure 
and say which is best. It is possible, though it is not always 
right, to aim at a greatest attainable quantum of pleasure : is it 
possible to aim at the production of a greatest quantum of good? 
That such is a possible aim certainly seems to be implied by 
those who make the greatest good of society the criterion of 
conduct (and there are few Moralists of any school who have 
not used some such language), and yet refuse to interpret 'good' 
in the hedonistic sense. With this larger problem we shall be 
occupied in the following chapter. 

But there is one last objection to the idea of a 'sum of 
pleasures ' with which I will briefly deal before dismissing the 
subject. It is admitted by some (though once more I have to 
deal with a class of opponents whose modesty prevents them 
putting their views into a form in which they can be criticized) 
that we do * prefer one lot of pleasures to another ' ; but it is 
said that we are not summing pleasures because the statement 
* this amount of pleasure is greater than that ' is merely a state- 
ment of our preference. We do not prefer the one alternative 
to the other because it contains more pleasure ; it may be said to 
give more pleasure simply because we prefer it. 

I reply: (i) My preference is not the same thing as my 
judgement that I shall get or have got more pleasure out of one 
set of experiences than out of another ; for, though the expecta- 
tion of pleasure may be the ground of my preference, I may 
make my preference turn on other grounds and prefer one 
course of action to another in spite of a clear judgement that 
it will yield less pleasure. 

(2) My preference lies in the present, whereas the pleasure 

D 2 


lies in the past or the future. The present judgement is determined 
by the past or the anticipated experience, not vice versa. My 
preference for course A is based on my judgement that I shall 
get more pleasure from it, but it is not the same thjng as that 
judgement. For I may prefer course A under the expectation 
that I shall get more pleasure from it than from course B, and 
find by bitter experience that I do not get the pleasure. The 
amount of pleasure which I shall actually get from an act of 
choice is not created by the act of choice, and is quite independent 
of my volition. It seems strange to find anti-hedonist and 
anti-sensationalist Philosophers confusing the act of choice with 
the judgement that it will be pleasant. If it be admitted that 
the prospective pleasure in any case or to any degree whatever 
influences our choice, we must make such judgements before we 
choose ; and since any duration of pleasure is made up of 
successive smaller durations, it is impossible to deny that the 
Judgement as to its pleasurableness, and pro tanto its preferability, 
must depend upon our judgement as to the pleasurableness of 
these separate durations. How it is possible to be influenced by 
these many distinct judgements without putting them together, 
and how it is possible to put quantities together without a 
' calculus/ the writers whom I have criticized have never 
succeeded in explaining. 


IN the last chapter I have endeavoured to defend the 
possibility of a hedonistic calculus. I maintained that it is 
psychologically possible to compare different lots of pleasure 
and to say which, on the whole, duration and intensity being 
both taken into account, is the greatest. If that be admitted, 
the fashioning of life in such a way as to attain either for 
oneself or for Society a greatest quantum of pleasure becomes 
a possible and intelligible ideal. It is possible to aim con- 
sistently at doing what will promote the greatest pleasure on 
the whole. But we have already seen reason to reject such 
a conception of the ethical end. The argument against Hedonism 
need not be repeated. Suffice it once more to remind the reader 
that, while I do regard pleasure as a good, I do not regard it as 
the good. It seems to me perfectly clear that the moral con- 
sciousness does pronounce some goods to be higher, or intrin- 
sically more valuable than others ; and that at the head of these 
goods comes Virtue, while many other things intellectual 
cultivation and intellectual activity, aesthetic cultivation, 
emotion of various kinds are also good and of more intrinsic 
value than mere pleasure. It is true that pleasure is an element 
in every state of consciousness to which we can assign ultimate 
value. I can attach no meaning whatever to the proposition, 
1 1 find this picture supremely beautiful, and yet it gives me no 
pleasure to look at it.' Even with regard to Virtue, it is difficult 
to answer the question whether I should judge Virtue to possess 
value, if it gave me no sort of pleasure or satisfaction. The 
belief in a priori judgements of value must not be interpreted 
to mean that we can see what in detail is good for human beings 


apart from the actual psychical and emotional constitution of 
human nature. If a being could exist (the very supposition 
doubtless involves an absurd abstraction) capable of appreciating 
the idea of duty, capable of willing that duty, and yet for ever 
by the very constitution of his nature incapable of deriving the 
smallest amount of pleasure or satisfaction from the perform- 
ance of duty by himself or another, I do not know that I should 
attach any meaning to the assertion ' Virtue to such a being or 
in such a being is a good/ Another person might no doubt 
regard such a being's Virtue as a good, but then he would judge 
also that the other person ought to derive pleasure or satis- 
faction from his goodness : he would hold that it was a good 
inasmuch as it ought to exist, but he would hardly think that 
the man himself had attained even that good which consists in 
being truly virtuous. Pleasure is an element in everything 
to which we attach value : and yet we do not attach value to 
consciousness in proportion to its pleasantness : pleasures differ 
in kind or quality. And as I endeavoured to show in the last 
chapter, this amounts to the assertion that something else in 
consciousness possesses value besides its pleasantness : there are 
other goods besides pleasure. On what principle then are we to 
choose between these different kinds of good? It is to my 
mind a perfectly clear deliverance of the moral consciousness, 
that no action can be right except in so far as it tends to 
produce a good, and that, when we have to choose between 
goods, it is always right to choose the greater good. Such 
a doctrine implies that goods of all kinds can be compared, that 
we can place goods of all kinds on a single scale, and assign to 
each its value relatively to the rest. The defence of this 
assumption is the object of the present chapter. 

In the first place I must begin by distinguishing between 
t.ffit4liflfexGnt Souses in which it may be asserted that goods of 
different kinds are commensurable.* ^ It may mean that a certain 
amount of one good can be regarded as a sufficient and satis- 
factory substitute for the other, so that, however much superior 
Virtue may be to Culture, a sufficient amount of Culture could 
be regarded as an entirely satisfactory compensation for the 
absence of all Virtue that, given enough sensual pleasure, the 


absence of either Virtue or Culture would cease to be an object 
of regret. If this were the only possible meaning of the com- 
mensurability of heterogeneous goods, I should fully sympathize 
with the assertion that the value of the higher goods (par- 
ticularly of Virtue) is incommensurable with that of anything 
else. But that is not the only possible meaning of our assertion. 
It may mean only that, when we have to choose between 
a higher and a lower good when we cannot have both we can 
compare them, and pronounce that one possesses more value 
than the other. 

And this is the only possible interpretation of the formula 
which is open to those who hold that no one of the competing 
goods, not even Virtue, is by itself the good. The true good of 
a human life does not consist either in Virtue only, or in know- 
ledge only, or in pleasure only. I altogether decline to pronounce 
cvdat/jLaw, or in the highest possible degree ' blessed/ a man who 
has enjoyed twenty years of unbroken Virtue in a loathsome 
dungeon, cut off from books or human society, and afflicted by 
perpetual toothache or a succession of other tortures. Such 
a man has not attained the true end of his being. He may be 
much more blessed than the successful sinner, but his lot cannot 
be pronounced a wholly desirable one ; he is blessed for his 
goodness, but he is not altogether blessed. Equally little would 
any abundance and variety of sensual pleasures make me 
attach high value to the life of a stupid sensualist ; nor will any 
amount of refinement or intellectual enjoyment induce me to 
regard as supremely desirable the life of a Borgia or even 
a Goethe. No -amount of one kind of good can compensate for 
the absence or deficiency of the other. But when circumstances 
make it impossible for me to secure for myself or for others all 
these kinds of good, then I can and must decide which of them 
I regard as best worth having ; and that implies that for the 
purpose of choosing between them they are commensurable. 

It is quite true, as will be indignantly protested in some 
quarters, that each of these ' goods ' taken by itself is an abstrac- 
tion. No one of them can exist wholly without the other, or at 
least without the opposite of the other. Pleasure cannot exist 
at least for a human being without some kind or measure of 


knowledge or intellectual activity. Knowledge can hardly be 
supposed ever to be accompanied by no kind or sort of pleasure, 
though the pleasure may in some cases be greatly outweighed 
by attendant pains. 

And, if you stripped off from a human being all activity of 
thought (even that implied in the most mechanical occupation 
or the most humdrum routine of duty), and all feeling of satis- 
faction in one thing rather than another, it would be difficult to 
see wherein the Virtue of such a being could consist. It is not 
upon each one of these things taken by itself that we pronounce 
our judgements of value, but upon each of them taken as an 
element in a whole l . Our ideal of human life is not a certain 
amount of the higher goods mechanically added on to a certain 
amount of lower goods, but a connected whole in which each is 
made different by its connexion with the others. It is not 
Virtue -f knowledge -f pleasure that we desire for a man a 
waking day, for instance, in which seven hours are devoted to 
Virtue, six to knowledge, and four to pleasure but that he may 
be virtuous and find pleasure in his virtuous activities ; that he 
may study and derive pleasure from his studies ; that he may 
enjoy the pleasures of eating and drinking, but enjoy them in 
such a manner and degree as may be conducive to the 'develop- 
ment of his higher nature, and consistent with the highest good 
of his fellows. But, when through unfavourable circumstances 
this ideal is not realizable, we can surely distinguish between 
the various elements in a human life and form a judgement as 
to which of them seems to be more important a large amount 
of this, or a small amount of that. If we were not thus 

1 It is equally true that we could not pronounce on their value as elements 
in a whole unless we found a value at least in some one of them taken 
separately, just as we could not find a picture beautiful unless blue, red, and 
green were found beautiful in themselves, though the aesthetic value of the 
colours may be enormously enhanced or (in the case of unpleasing contrast) 
diminished by the combination. Just so pleasure is a good taken by itself, 
but it may cease to be so if by its excess it spoils the true proportion of 
higher and lower goods in our life. Mr. Moore's remark that the value of 
two goods in combination may be very different from the combined value 
of each taken separately (Principle* Ethica, p. 214) is a new and striking way 
of stating a very old truth. 


capable of distinguishing between various elements in human 
life 1 , all thinking or talking about the moral ideal, or indeed 
about practical aims or objects of any kind, would be estopped. 
And if, wjien we have distinguished them, we are not to say 
which of them is best and to act upon our answer, there is an 
end to the possibility of any -ethical system which admits that 
the morality of an action depends upon its consequences. The 
latter admission is now generally made by the most anti- 
hedonistic writers. There is a general consensus that Ethics 
must be 4 teleological,' though not hedonistic. And this admission 
seems inevitably to carry with it the further concession that all 
values must be, in the sense defined, commensurable. If the 
morality of an act depends upon the value of all its consequences 
taken together, we must be able to say which of two sets of 
consequences possesses the more value ; and, if different kinds of 
consequence are to have any weight assigned to them, we must 
be able to attribute more or less weight to each of them. To 
deny this seems to amount to the denial that there is any one 
fixed and consistent meaning in the word ' value ' or ' worth ' or 
' good/ and to make impossible any system of Ethics which is 
based upon this conception. 


The only way of escaping the admission that different kinds 
of good are commensurable would be to assert that it is always 
right to choose the highest. Now (if we assume that Virtue is 
the highest of goods) this contention involves all the difficulties 
of the formalistic Ethics (to use Prof. Paulsen's term) of Kant 
and his stricter disciples. If nothing in the world possesses 
value except the good will, we cut ourselves off from the possibility 
of assigning a rational ground for regarding one volition as 
better than another. To repeat once more the stock criticism, 

1 It is true, of course, as has been admitted above, that we never get one 
element tvholly apart from the other. The greediest bon-vivant, with his 
attention wholly concentrated on his food, is thinking of something, and 
the student absorbed in his books may be enjoying the carnal pleasure of 
sitting in a comfortable chair, but we may make abstraction of these things 
sufficiently to ask ' Which is best eating or study ? ' 


a will that wills nothing but itself has no content. The term 
' right ' is meaningless except in reference to the good. The good 
will may possess infinitely more value than any consequence that 
it wills ; but, unless that consequence be good, the will cannot be 
good either. Charity is no doubt better than the eating of food 
by hungry persons, but unless that eating be good, there is no 
reason for applying the word ' right ' or ' good ' to the charitable 
act. To deny that anything possesses value but a good will 
(which Kant after all did not do) is to deny that such a thing 
as a good will is possible. The attempt may, indeed, be made 
to escape the force of this criticism by pleading that it is only 
where some lower good is incompatible with the higher that it 
must be treated as possessing no value at all. But, in the first 
place, it seems difficult to escape the admission that, even when 
we assign some value to the lower and a value to the higher 
which always overweighs any conceivable amount of the former, 
we are in a sense treating them as commensurable: we do in 
a sense measure the value of the one against the other, even 
when we pronounce that their values are related as finite 
quantities are related to infinity. But the question arises 
whether we do always pronounce that the smallest quantity of 
the higher is worth more than the largest quantity of the lower. 
And here of course the appeal can only be to the actual moral 
judgements of mankind. 

. So long as I confine myself to my own Virtue, it seems clekr 
that it can never be right for me to prefer any quantity of 
a lower good to the doing of my own duty. And if goodness, 
Morality, a rightly directed will, be the thing of highest value 
in the world, I shall always be choosing the greatest good for 
myself by doing my duty. If in any case it is right or reason- 
able for me to choose a lower good rather than a higher one, 
then eo ipso I shall not be violating my duty by pursuing it, 
and therefore I shall not be postponing my own Morality to 
anything which is not Morality. The principle that all values 
are commensurable can never in practice bring the morality of 
any individual into competition with any other good, so long as 
his own voluntary acts alone are concerned. It can never compel 
us to say, ' For an adequate quantity of some other good it is 


reasonable for me to commit a sin.' So much results from a mere 
analysis of the idea of duty. 

But can we say that there are no cases in which we have, in 
judging of the effect of our conduct upon others, to institute 
comparisons between the intrinsic worth of goodness and the 
intrinsic worth of other and lower goods knowledge, culture, 
bodily pleasure, immunity from pain? Can we say that it is 
always right to regard the very smallest amount of moral good 
in that sense of moral good in which one man's goodness may be 
increased and diminished by the act of another as preferable 
to the utmost conceivable quantity of any lower good ? It seems 
to me that to maintain that such is always our duty would 
involve an austerity or rigorism by which few would even 
pretend to guide their judgements of conduct outside the pages 
of an ethical treatise. Take the case contemplated by Cardinal 
Newman. Cardinal Newman, in defending himself against the 
charge of depreciating Veracity because lying is only, according 
to Roman Catholic Moral Theology, a venial sin, has laid it down 
that it would be better for millions of the human race to expire 
in extremest agony than for a single human soul to be guilty of 
the slightest venial sin. Mr. Lecky has declined to endorse this 
tremendous judgement l . And, I believe, few who in the least 
realize the meaning of the words which they are using would do 
so either. And what does this mean but that we judge that 
a little Morality (so far as Morality may be the result of another's 
conduct) possesses less value than an immense quantity of 
pleasure or the prevention of a vast amount of pain that it is 
from the point of view of Reason more important that so many 
thousand people should not suffer torments than that one man 
should not commit a small sin ? 

It will perhaps be objected that such an alternative could 
never be presented ; but such a contention would, it seems to me, 
betray an extraordinary blindness to some of the most difficult 
practical problems with which we are confronted every day of 
our lives. I have a limited sum of money to spend on charity. 
I believe that spiritual good can be promoted by efficient Curates, 
that intellectual good can be promoted by education, and that 
1 Hist, of European Momls (1877), I, p. HI. 


pain can be saved by hospitals. Shall I give it to an Additional 
Curates Society, or to education, or to a hospital ? I have a son 
who wishes to enter the Civil Service of India. Shall I send 
him to a ' crammer's/ which (in his particular case) may give him 
the best chance of getting in, or to a Public School and University, 
which will be best for his moral and intellectual well-being? 
A problem more exactly resembling the hypothetical case pro- 
pounded by Newman arises when some great material benefit can 
only be obtained by the bribery of an official. Few people would 
hesitate to bribe a Chinese Mandarin to be unfaithful to his 
superiors, a traitor to his country, disloyal very possibly to his 
own highest ideal (which may enjoin relentless hostility to 
foreigners) in order to set free a score or so of Europeans who 
would otherwise be exposed to torture and death. By such an 
act a man would distinctly be causing a small amount of moral 
evil in order to produce a large amount of hedonistic good. 

Such an admission could only be escaped if we were to adopt 
the extravagant position sometimes taken up by extreme Liber- 
tarians the position that the virtue of one man can never be 
increased or diminished by the action of another. The admission 
that in some cases it is right to prefer a larger amount of lower 
good to a smaller amount of a higher in no way involves, be it 
observed, the principle ' to do a great right do a little wrong/ 
The individual must himself always do right : the moral evil 
that he causes is not even a little wrong in him, if (as the view 
I am defending maintains) it is right for him to cause in another 
that little moral evil rather than be the cause of an immense 
amount of undeserved physical suffering. And I fail to see how 
moral judgements which would in practice be assented to and 
acted upon by the holiest of mankind can be explained or 
justified upon any other view. 

There are, I must freely admit, very many more cases in 
which I am certain that the accepted morality of our time and 
country implies such a preference of much lower to a little 
higher good than there are cases in which I am certain that 
such a preference is really justifiable. We compel large masses 
of young men to remain unmarried, well knowing the moral 
consequences which are likely to ensue from such a state of 


things, because we hold that the country must be defended and 
that it would be too expensive to allow all soldiers to marry. 
We allow the children of the working classes to be withdrawn 
from schopl at the age of twelve or thirteen, though no one 
doubts that they would benefit morally and intellectually by 
staying till sixteen, because we think it would be too great 
a strain upon the resources of the country and of the individual 
parents here, now, for the moment, under existing social and 
economic conditions to compel them to keep their children at 
school any longer. In other words, we hold the enjoyment of 
luxuries by rich taxpayers, of Culture by the educated, of com- 
forts by poor taxpayers, of the necessaries of life by poor parents 
to be of more intrinsic importance than the higher moral and 
intellectual advancement of the children. I need not pursue 
such illustrations further. There is, in fact, no single expenditure 
of money public or private upon material enjoyment which 
goes beyond the bare necessaries of life which can justify itself 
upon the theory that it is never right to promote lower good 
when we could promote ever so little of some higher good l . 

It is quite true, and it is important to remember, that the 
opposition between higher and lower good is seldom so absolute 
as has been here assumed. It is seldom, in such practical 
problems, that all the higher good is on one side and all the 
lower good on the other. When we insist that, given certain 
circumstances, the claims of national defence must take pre- 
cedence of education, and even of certain branches of personal 
Morality (in so far as Morality can be promoted or hindered by 
external influences), we may plead that we attach importance to 
national defence, not only in the interests of commerce and 
material well-being, but in the interests of national independence, 
national character, and international Morality. When we refuse 

1 * If we ask whether I ought always to choose to slightly elevate another 
person's ideals, at the cost of great suffering to him, or if I ought always to 
choose to slightly elevate my own ideals, at the cost of great suffering to 
some one else, it becomes clear that happiness and development are ethi- 
cally commensurable, and that we have no right to treat a loss of either as 
ethically indifferent' (McTaggart, Studies in Hegelian Cosmology , p. 122). It 
will be seen from what follows (p. 47) that it is only in a very restricted 
sense that I should admit that the second possibility can ever arise. 


to burden poor parents beyond a certain point for the education 
of their children, it may be suggested that further pressure 
would involve the semi-starvation of the children, which would 
not be ultimately in the interests of their moral and intellectual 
Well-being. And, more generally, we may contend that a certain 
indulgence of the lower appetites and desires of human nature- 
an indulgence going considerably beyond the paramount require- 
ments of health is in average men more conducive to moral 
Well-being than a semi- compulsory asceticism with the inevitable 
reaction which such asceticism is apt to provoke. All this is 
very true; but still we cannot, as it seems to me, avoid the 
admission that in some cases the balance of moral good is on 
one side, and that of lower good on the other. Give that bribe, 
and the moral character of your Mandarin will have taken 
a downward turn : withhold it and twenty European men, women, 
and children will die in torture and dishonour. It is only 
a fanatic to whom the small deterioration of one Mandarin, ex 
hypbthesi not a character of the highest order, will seem a more 
valuable end than the saving of twenty European lives with all 
their possibilities of happiness. It may be said that there are 
possibilities of goodness also. Then let us suppose that death 
is unavoidable, and that it is only a question of torture. No 
doubt the prevention of injustice may have good moral effects. 
But all these are vague possibilities as contrasted with the 
certain moral evil of corrupting the Mandarin with all the 
incidental moral effects which that corruption may carry with 
it. Our moral judgement is not really determined by these 
speculative possibilities. We really think it more important to 
spare so much suffering than to avoid the slight deterioration of 
one Mandarin's character. 

For the agent himself it can never, we have admitted, be right 
to prefer his own lower to his own higher good, for the simple 
reason that to do right is always his own highest good. And 
yet, even in considering one's own moral good, there may be 
cases in which it may be right, just in order to do one's duty, to 
adopt a course of action which may be likely on the whole to 
have an injurious effect on one's own character, in that sense of 
character in which a man is made better or worse by influences 

Chap, ii, iii] CULTURE AND PLEASURE 47 

not under the immediate control of his own will. It may some- 
times be right for a man to adopt a profession which in the long 
run may have a lowering effect upon his ideals and upon his 
conduct, in preference to one which would be likely to have 
a more elevating influence; or in innumerable other ways to 
face temptations which he does not know that he will always be 
able to resist rather than to purchase his own moral purity at 
the cost of other people's Well-being. Our own future Well- 
being, in so far as it lies beyond our own immediate control, is 
in the same position as other people's moral Well-being to be 
weighed against the other kinds of good, and assigned a value 
which, though enormously transcending that of lower goods, 
cannot be held to be absolutely incommensurable with them. 
But still, this admission does not involve any abandonment of 
our previous contention that it can never be right for a man 
to do an immediately wrong act for the sake of any other 
advantage to himself or others. By choosing the greater good, 
he has done his duty (even in choosing a course which may in 
the long run react in some ways unfavourably upon his own 
character), and by doing his duty he has chosen the greatest 
good for himself. He would have become a worse man by 
taking the opposite course. Paradox as it may seem, he would 
have become a less moral man on the whole by attaching too 
high a value to his own Morality. In reality he is only pre- 
ferring one element in his own moral good to another a higher 
element to a lower since the preference of the greatest good is 
itself the highest Morality. 


So far, we have been comparing the value of Morality or 
character with that of all other goods. When we come to the 
weighing of higher goods other than the highest of intellectual 
and aesthetic goods for instance against the lower, there will be 
perhaps less objection to admit that a small amount of the 
higher may sometimes have to give way to a large amount of 
the lower. At all events the task of showing that this is the 
principle upon which ordinary good men act is here an easy one. 
Some of the instances already given will serve to illustrate this 


case also the sacrifice of education to health and comfort, the 
spending of national money upon armies and guns instead of 
Universities, libraries, and scientific expeditions, the cutting 
down of the British Museum grant in the interest of ,the South 
African War. However much we may regret and condemn the 
indifference which our own Parliaments and Governments (more 
than any other Parliaments and Governments in the civilized 
world) show to such intellectual objects, few of us would be 
prepared to push the expenditure of public moneys upon them 
to a point which would on the material side lower the general 
standard of comfort to the level of bare health and subsistence. 
And here there will be little scruple in admitting that it is not 
merely in conduct affecting others but in conduct affecting 
primarily only ourselves that we act, and feel that we do right 
in acting, upon the principle that the quantity as well as the 
quality of various heterogeneous goods must be taken into 
account in choosing between them. We feel that Art is higher 
than comfort and good eating, but we do not feel bound to 
lower our standard of comfort below a certain point in order to 
buy books and pictures. We recognize that study is intrinsi- 
cally more valuable than ordinary conversation, but we feel 
justified in spending on the enjoyment of society a considerable 
amount of time which might be spent upon study. We acknow- 
ledge the claim of Culture, but we do not feel bound to pursue 
Culture when it would interfere beyond a certain point with 
health and comfort and the ordinary enjoyment of life an 
enjoyment consisting in the following out of natural tastes and 
inclinations which, however harmless, we cannot upon reflection 
pronounce to have a very high intrinsic value. We may admit 
on reflection that we do not care for and pursue our own 
intellectual improvement as much as we ought to do ; but in our 
most serious moments of self-examination we hold that it is 
sometimes lawful to spend half an hour upon some lower amuse- 
ment without proving that the giving up of that amusement 
would injuriously affect our health or cause some other evil 
than the mere loss of the amusement. In such cases there is, 
indeed, no great disproportion between the amount of the higher 
and of the lower goods. If we think of cases where the dis- 

Chap, ii, iii] HETEROGENEOUS GOODS 49 

proportion would be very great, the verdict of the practical 
Reason will be still more unhesitating. If we had to weigh the 
sufferings of some thousand tortured rabbits against the purely 
intellectual t gain of some theoretically unimportant and prac- 
tically unfruitful piece of scientific knowledge 1 , or a woman's 
heart broken and her life wrecked against the scientific or 
aesthetic advantage to a Philosopher or a Novelist in being 
enabled the better to analyse the passion of love in cases like 
these there will be little doubt what the verdict will be on tho 
part of any person of common humanity not sophisticated by 
the gospel of Self-realization. 

All these judgements then imply that we do actually weigh 
very heterogeneous goods against one another, and decide which 
possesses most value, and in making that estimate we do take 
into consideration the amount of the two kinds of good as well 
as the quality. We do hold that a little of some higher good is 
too dearly bought by a great sacrifice of some lower good, and, on 
the other hand, that a very small quantity of one good is sometimes 
worth a great deal of another. If a facetious opponent forthwith 
challenges us to produce a graduated table of goods, a tariff by 
reference to which we may at once say how much headache 
ought to outweigh the Culture implied in the reading of 
a Shakespearean play or the like, the answer is the one which 
the opponent will probably urge against the whole scheme 
that there are no means of measuring with exactitude such 
things as Culture or Charity, and, again, that the value of 
a 'good' is relative to many circumstances. The reading of 
a play of Shakespeare may be an intellectual revolution the 
beginning of a new intellectual and (it may be) moral life to 
one man, while to another it will be of less value than the same 
number of pages of Miss Marie Corelli. But, as I have so often had 
occasion to point out, the impossibility of reducing to numerical 
precision judgements of this kind does not imply that the judge- 
ments are not made, or that they are not quantitative. It is 
only in quite recent times that mechanical methods have been 
invented for instituting exact comparisons between lights of 

1 I have nothing to say against Vivisection duly regulated in the interests 
of Humanity. 



different strength l : yet, long before such methods were invented, 
men judged that one light was stronger much stronger, 
moderately stronger, or a little stronger than another light, 
and acted on their judgements. A little ingenuity might 
perhaps find cases in which we could with some meaning say 
that one higher good possessed twice the intrinsic value 
possessed by another. But I have admitted that even in com- 
paring pleasures, and pleasures of the same order, such exact 
measurements are rarely possible and never of use. It is 
a characteristic of these higher goods that their value, or rather 
the value of goods springing from the same objective source, varies 
with circumstances more even than is the case with simple physical 
pleasures and pains. And therefore here the attempt to find cases 
in which such a mensuration might have a meaning is too far 
removed from anything which actually takes place in our 
practical life to be worth attempting, even by way of playfully 
illustrating the quantitative character of these judgements. 


There is one really formidable objection to the position taken 
up in this and the last chapter which I must attempt briefly to 
meet. Among those who strongly hold that all goods can be 
compared, that * value ' must always have the same meaning, 
and that the true way of deciding between two alternative 
courses of action is to ask, 'By doing which shall I produce 
good of most value?' there are some who will object to the 
distinction which has here been drawn between pleasure-value 
and value of a higher kind. It has been assumed that we some- 
times say, ' This course will produce the most pleasure, but the 
pleasure is not sufficient to outweigh the evil of another kind 
which is involved in it : the course which produces least pleasure 
will produce most good/ But it may be urged that if we are 
really to be faithful to our doctrine that all values are com- 
parable, we must refuse to recognize more than one kind of value: 
and that if we reject the doctrine that pleasure is the only 
thing that has value, we cannot really compare states of con- 

1 Even here the comparison is only made by the aid of an assumption 
which perhaps cannot be strictly defended. Cf. above, p. 25. 

Chap, ii, iv] PLEASURE AND VALUE 51 

sciousness as pleasures, and then override that judgement by 
a second valuation as goods. ' The ideal or rational standard of 
comparison/ it may be urged, ' is the only one. Whether it is 
pleasure oij Culture or Morality that we are comparing, all that 
we can do is to say which appears to us to be worth most.' 
I have some sympathy with the spirit in which this objection is 
made. For I freely confess that I find it impossible either to 
get hold of a satisfactory definition of pleasure or to distinguish 
in any sharp or scientific way between pleasure- value and that 
higher kind of value which, though doubtless normally accom- 
panied by more or less pleasure, is not (for the developed moral 
consciousness) measured in terms of pleasure. It would be easy 
to show how wildly wide of the mark are most of the definitions 
of pleasure which have been put forth by eminent authorities. 
After each of them one exclaims, * Well, whatever I mean by 
pleasure, it is certainly not that/ And yet I cannot readily 
bring myself to believe that pleasure is simply a vox nihili ; for 
nothing less than that would be the logical consequence of 
saying, * Pleasure is neither identical with value nor one of the 
things which possess value: we can compare values, but we 
cannot compare pleasures/ It might be possible for an ascetic 
to say, * I know what pleasure is, but it has no value' : but those 
who hold the view which I am criticizing are not ascetics. They 
do attribute value to pleasant things. The value of some things 
is not measured by their pleasantness, but the value of other 
things surely does cease to exist when they cease to be pleasant. 
We must, therefore, be able to estimate their pleasantness before 
we can pronounce upon their value, and compare that value with 
the value of things which do not owe their value entirely to 
their pleasantness. It has been fully and frankly admitted that 
pleasure is an abstraction, that it is one particular aspect of 
consciousness ; but it is not the only one. Now I do not think 
it possible to define what this aspect is sufficiently to mark 
it off with absolute precision from those other aspects which 
we have in view in pronouncing upon the absolute or ultimate 
value of some state of consciousness. And yet it is certain 
that it does represent one of the aspects under which we are 
practically in the habit of considering and valuing such states. 


I tremble at the thought of putting forth a new definition of 
pleasure, and protest that what follows is not intended as such : 
but I venture to suggest that, when we try to estimate the value 
of a state of consciousness as pleasure, we are thinking of its 
value simply as immediate feeling, abstracting as much as 
possible from all reference to the other parts of our nature. 
Our appreciation of the value of duty does not depend merely 
upon the immediate feeling that accompanies the doing of duty : to 
hold that is the ' moral sense ' view of the matter which (as Hume 
has shown once for all), when fully thought out, ends in Hedon- 
ism. It depends upon our appreciation of the relation between 
this present consciousness of ours and our own past and future, 
upon our consciousness of our relation as persons to other persons, 
upon the presence of all sorts of desires and aspirations which go 
beyond the moment beyond even our own consciousness at all. 
The same may be applied in a modified degree to the value which 
we find in intellectual or aesthetic cultivation. All these things 
are put aside when we estimate our consciousness simply as 
present feeling. This is most clearly seen in the case of those 
conscious states which have no value except what they possess 
simply as so much pleasant feeling. If we found that the 
drinking of a certain liquid not required for purposes of health 
was not satisfactory simply in and for itself, we should pronounce 
it to have no value at all. It would be easy and tempting to 
essay a definition of pleasure by making it consist in the 
satisfaction of our lower as distinct from the satisfaction of our 
higher desires. But this will not express what we really mean 
by pleasure. For pleasure is clearly something which the lower 
sources of satisfaction have in common with the higher. When 
we compare the glow of satisfaction which sometimes attends 
a conquest over temptation, we feel at once that the resulting 
feeling has something in common with the state of mind into 
which we are put on other occasions by a cup of tea. 

It is this something which we seek to indicate by the term 
pleasure. And yet I do not feel that the value of that good will 
of ours is wholly dependent upon the satisfactoriness of the 
present feeling, or of any future succession of such feelings. 
Apart from that, we judge that the good will has value ; and 3 


indeed, it is this recognition of its value which is the cause, or at 
least one condition of the pleasure quite otherwise than in the 
case of the tea ; there we cannot say what value it has till we 
try it, and, if we do not like the feeling, it has no value at 
all. To the man who desires goodness, or cares about doing his 
duty, the doing of it must bring some pleasure, for there is 
pleasure in the satisfaction of all desire; and it would be (as 
I have admitted) meaningless to ask whether we should attach 
value to Morality for a being who was for ever incapable of 
feeling, or being brought to feel, any such satisfaction in good 
conduct. But we can equally little assert that the value of the 
good act depends upon the amount of the resulting pleasure. 
For, while a good act must bring pleasure to him who has any 
sense of its value, the amount of the pleasure is dependent upon 
very many other things than the amount of the good will upon 
health, temperament, spirits, surrounding circumstances of all 
kinds. But these variations in the actual pleasantness of the 
good will exercise no influence upon our estimate of the higher 
value which goodness possesses as compared with the drinking 
of good wine. And we judge that those who do not experience 
this pleasantness at all, whatever other pleasures they enjoy, are 
in a state of mind which we cannot wholly approve. They 
ought to feel this pleasure. We hold that goodness has a 
pleasure- value which may be compared with the pleasure- value 
of champagne, which may sometimes exceed and sometimes fall 
short of that value, but that it possesses besides a value of its 
own which it does not share with the champagne. We are 
brought back at last to the simple fact of consciousness. The 
only way of defending the possibility of a judgement, or the 
existence of a category, is to show that we do actually think in 
that way ; and it is clear to me that each of the three attempts 
(i) to analyse all value into pleasure- value, or (2) to merge 
pleasure-value into value in general, or (3) to deny that some- 
times we are driven to compare pleasure- value with some higher 
kind of value fails to represent the actual verdict of our moral 

If the view which we have taken of the relation in which the 
idea of pleasure stands to the idea of value be well founded, it 


will be obvious why, from the nature of the case, no very sharp 
distinction can be drawn between them, Among the things to 
which we attach value, some appeal so entirely to the higher or 
rational part of our nature that, except for the bare fact that they 
do satisfy desire, they seem to have nothing in common with the 
lower. When a man does his duty at the cost of toil and suffer- 
ing, it is so exclusively the higher part of his nature that impels 
him to the sacrifice that we should feel it unnatural to say that 
it is the pleasure to which he attaches so high a value. This 
higher nature of his is, indeed, so closely connected with his 
lower that it is impossible that the satisfaction of that higher 
impulse can fail to excite some pleasant feeling, but it is not 
valued simply as feeling. On the other hand, the mere * prick 
of sense ' ceases to have value when it ceases to give pleasure. 
The vast majority of those states of consciousness to which we 
attach value are intermediate between the two cases. They 
appeal to our higher and to our lower nature at the same time. 
The performance of duty, even at the sacrifice of much that 
under other circumstances would be valued, the activity of our 
intellect in an interesting profession or an interesting study, 
social intercourse with those whom we really care for all these 
under favourable circumstances are accompanied by feeling of 
a kind which has much in common with the feeling that one 
gets from bathing or basking in the sunshine. They appeal to 
the higher and to the lower part of our nature at one and the 
same time. It would be ridiculous to talk as if we valued them 
simply as pleasures; for, when, through unfavourable circum- 
stances or interfering unpleasantness, they practically cease to 
appeal to the lower nature at all, we value them still. It would 
be equally impossible to pronounce that our judgement of their 
value is wholly independent of that which they have in common 
with the merely animal satisfactions. In these cases it is 
practically impossible to say how much of the value is due to 
one source and how much to the other. If we supposed the 
lower side of this satisfactoriness progressively diminished, it 
would be virtually impossible to say exactly when we had 
reached the point at which we had ceased to prefer them as 
pleasant states of mind, and begun to prefer them only fts states of 


mind which we value apart from their pleasurableness. It is 
only when we attempt by a deliberate effort of abstraction to 
compare the higher and the lower from the same point of view 
the point of view of immediate feeling that we do actually 
distinguish between the value of our mental condition on the 
whole arid its value as pleasure. And such efforts, being seldom 
useful, are seldom made. It is only when the higher and the 
lower elements of interest get violently separated when the 
value which some object of desire has for us as rational and 
reflecting beings gets very far removed from the value which it 
has for us as sensitive beings 1 , that it becomes natural to say, * We 
prefer this to that, but we do not prefer it simply as pleasure/ 

It is probable that in practice different people use this term 
* pleasure' with considerable differences of meaning. Some 
people, even among Philosophers, seem to be unable to dissociate 
the term pleasure from bodily indulgences : while the existence of 
high-minded Hedonists seems to show that others really use it 
almost or entirely in the sense of ' intrinsically valuable con- 

On the whole, then, it is clear to me that we cannot do without 
this distinction between value and pleasure. To merge the idea 
of value in that of pleasure practically involves all the fallacies 
of Hedonism ; to merge the idea of pleasure in that of value 
involves the refusal to distinguish different elements in the 
supremely valuable kind of conscious life which the moral con- 
sciousness undoubtedly does distinguish. Practically we cannot 
get on without both the idea of value and that of pleasure. Yet 
it may be admitted that the idea of value belongs to the 
language of strict philosophical thought, the idea of pleasure 
rather to the region of those popular conceptions which the 
Philosopher must take account of, which he is bound to use 
but which are from their very nature incapable of exact 
definition, and which, therefore, must necessarily be used without 
exact scientific precision. We want a term to express that in 
value which is common to the higher and the lower of those 
states of consciousness in which we recognize value : but, just 
because higher and lower shade off into one another, pleasure 

* Of ponrsp WP are never in realitv merely sensitive. 


must needs shade off into something that is not pleasure, or at 
all events not mere pleasure. We may speak of pleasure as the 
value which feeling possesses simply as feeling ; yet, just because 
feeling does not exist apart from the other elements in con- 
sciousness, but is one aspect of an indivisible reality the think- 
ing, feeling, willing self it is impossible sharply to distinguish 
the value which we attach to consciousness simply as feeling 
from the value which we attach to it because it satisfies our 
rational nature : for the lower kind of satisfaction often 
depends upon and arises from our consciousness of the highest 
kind of value. Enthusiasm for an idea religious or other 
may produce some of the emotional, even some of the 
physical, effects of the keenest sensuous enjoyment. It will no 
doubt be urged that Philosophy has nothing to do with such 
a vague and indefinable conception ; but a Philosophy which 
fails to take account of the vague and inadequate language in 
which alone it is possible to express our moral experience 
must be a Philosophy which deliberately refuses to deal with 
one side and that the most important and fundamental side 
of that spiritual experience in which Reality consists. It is all 
very well to protest against abstractions, but without abstractions 
there is no thought. A Philosophy that would avoid abstrac- 
tions must be speechless : and the Moral Philosophy of some of 
my friends would seem to be practically speechless, except in so 
far as it indulges in splenetic outbursts of abuse or contempt 
against those who humbly endeavour to put their ethical views 
into intelligible words. It is right no doubt to protest against 
' one-sided abstractions ' ; but every abstraction must be one-sided 
while it is actually being made. The only way to neutralize the 
abstraction involved in looking at one side of a thing apart from 
the other side is to look at the other side also at another time. 
I trust that in contending for the indispensability of the 
distinction between the pleasure-aspect and other aspects of 
consciousness, and in contending that both have value, though 
one has a higher value than the other, I have not violated this 
doubtless important principle. The ideal end of life does not 
consist in a mere aggregate of goods piled together without 
mutual influence or interaction upon one another. No one 


of them indeed can be enjoyed or can exist in absolute isolation 
from the other. And yet the nature of this ideal can only be 
indicated for thought and for language by describing it as a 
whole made up of distinguishable elements a good made up of 
an hierarchy ] or ascending scale of goods. 

There is another concept which seems to demand a brief 
treatment in this connexion that of happiness. If we repudiate 
the hedonistic identification of pleasure and happiness, what 
account, it may be asked, are we to give of the latter? If we 
regard pleasure as part, though not the whole, of the life that has 
supreme value, is not this last, it may be suggested, very much 
what we mean by happiness ? If we attempt (apart altogether 
from theory) to analyse what as a matter of fact we commonly 
mean when we talk of happiness, the answer will, I think, be 
something of this kind. Happiness represents satisfaction with 
one's existence as a whole with the past and the future as well 
as with the immediate present. Happiness certainly cannot be 
identified with pleasure, not even with the higher or more 
refined kinds of pleasure. It is possible to get an enormous 
amount of pleasure into one's life of pleasures that are recog- 
nized as having a value and even a high value and yet to be 
on the whole unhappy through the presence of desires which 
are unsatisfied, dissatisfaction with the past 2 , anxiety as to the 
future, unfulfilled aspirations, baffled hopes and the like 3 . It 

1 Cf. the great Theologian Albrecht Hitachi's conception of the King- 
dom of God : * The task of the Kingdom of God . . . includes likewise all 
labour in which our lordship over nature is exercised for the maintenance, 
ordering, and furtherance even of the bodily side of human life. For unless 
activities such as these are ultimately to end in anti-social egoism, or in a 
materialistic overestimate of their immediate results, they must be judged 
in the light of those ends which, in ascending series, represent the social, 
spiritual, and moral ideal of man' (The Christian Doctrine of Justification and 
Reconciliation, Eng. Trans., 1900, p. 612). 

2 Thus St. Augustine holds that ' perfecta beatitudo ' is impossible in this 
life on account of the moral failures of the past and the present. 

8 This distinction between happiness and pleasure is no doubt present to 
the minds of those who make the end of life to be satisfaction of a 'timeless 


is possible to endure a considerable amount of hardship, of 
positive pain both bodily and mental, and yet to be on the 
whole happy ; though we should certainly say that the removal 
or mitigation of those pains would add to the happiness even of 
those who are most ' self-sufficient for happiness/ 

There is therefore a difference between happiness and pleasure. 
And yet it is impossible without paradox to dissociate the idea 
of happiness altogether from that of pleasure. A happy life 
must include some pleasure : all happiness is pleasiirable, though 
not all pleasure is happiness. The pleasure which is an essential 
part of happiness is no doubt pleasure of the kind which is 
most dependent upon the man himself and least dependent upon 
circumstances the kind of pleasure which, as Aristotle con- 
tended, the higher activities necessarily bring with them. But 
happiness is by no means altogether independent of external cir- 
cumstances : there must, as Aristotle puts it, be that unimpeded 
exercise of the higher faculties which is very much dependent 
upon circumstances. Happiness depends largely upon health, 
upon suitable work, upon a congenial marriage : and these are 
emphatically things which are not in our own power. It is true 
that some kinds of ill health or of uncongenial environment are 
in some men compatible with a considerable measure of happi- 
ness; and the people who are most capable of such happiness 
are, no doubt, on the whole the best men. But nobody would 

self. 5 But, apart from other objections, happiness, though it is distinguished 
from pleasure (a) by being commonly attributed only to some considerable 
period of a man's life and (b) by involving the satisfaction of desires which 
* look before and after,' the satisfaction of the more permanent and dominant 
aims and desires of a man's life, is still emphatically something in time. 
Some people, it is probable, would say that parts of their life have been 
happy, other parts unhappy, and most people that some parts have been 
more happy or less unhappy than others. The objections which I make below 
to regarding even a sublimated happiness as the end may be urged also to the 
attempt to make the end consist in satisfaction of any kind. It is true no 
doubt that any experience which we pronounce valuable must give satis- 
faction, but to make satisfaction the end almost inevitably suggests that things 
are valuable in proportion as they satisfy this or that individual's actual 
desires, irrespective of their nature, whereas in fact we feel that it is better 
to be 'a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied ; better to be Socrates 
dissatisfied, than a fool satisfied 1 (Utilitarianism, p. 14). 


contend, ( except when defending a thesis/ that those complaints 
which bring extreme depression with them as a mere physiological 
consequence are compatible with any high degree of happiness. 
And there. are 'blows' public or private calamities, failures, 
bereavements which make the recovery of happiness impossible 
to most men ; nor can it be laid down as a general proposition 
that all good men are happy. To say how far a bad man can 
be happy would involve pushing the definition of an essentially 
vague conception further than it is commonly pushed. We 
should have to talk of different kinds or different senses of 
happiness. The bad man is no doubt generally unhappy because 
any better desires that he has are unsatisfied, and because very 
often his desires and inclinations are of a kind that are incom- 
patible with one another, so that one part or aspect of his 
nature is always unsatisfied : his life has no wholeness or unity. 
But this is not perhaps always the case: the bad man no 
doubt cannot get the same happiness as the good man, but he 
may get what he wants, and so may attain a kind of happiness. 
At all events we may say that, though, on the whole, goodness 
tends to make people happy (far more generally than it tends 
to increase the sum of their pleasures), men are not happy in 
proportion to their goodness. We cannot, therefore, without 
using words in unusual and unnatural senses, so far sublimate 
the idea of happiness as to identify it with the end of life in 
general, with consciousness that has value, with Well-being. It 
is a most important element no doubt in true Well-being 
a far more important one than pleasure ; or (if we say that 
happiness is a particular kind of pleasure) it is a far more 
valuable kind of pleasure than any other, and far more 
inseparable than most other pleasures from the goods to which 
we ascribe the very highest value. And yet it is not by itself 
the good. We cannot say that it actually includes all forms of 
pleasure that are valuable, high intellectual or aesthetic develop- 
ment or even goodness, though the most complete kind of 
happiness may presuppose the last. Still less, when the good 
is unattainable, can we say that, among goods or elements of the 
good, happiness is always the one that possesses the most value, 
or is the one to which all others should be sacrificed. The 


noblest kinds of self-devotion do involve a real sacrifice not 
merely of pleasure but of happiness. 

Happiness has this much in common with the good that for 
most of us it represents an ideal which we can hardly pay that we 
have ever enjoyed in the undiluted and unruffled fullness which 
we picture to ourselves as possible and desirable ; that we can only 
form an ideal conception of it by putting together, amplifying, 
idealizing moments or periods or elements of our actual ex- 
perience, supposing them continuously prolonged, and leaving 
out all that disturbed or qualified the joyous moments while 
they were actually there. Perfect happiness is no doubt an 
ideal, but it is a different ideal from that of perfect Well-being. 
It is an ideal which, at least for people who have in their way 
higher desires and aspirations, is closely connected with the 
highest elements in life, but still it cannot safely be made the 
sole and direct object of pursuit by each individual for himself. 
Perfect Well-being would doubtless include perfect happiness, 
but it would include much more than we ordinarily mean by 
happiness. The idea of happiness can no more be dispensed 
with in any concrete account of the ideal life than the idea of 
pleasure, and can equally little be identified with that of value. 
It is not the whole of the ideal life, but an element or an aspect 
of it. The ideal life or the good is an ultimate conception 
which does not admit of further definition, and the content of 
which we can only express by enumerating the various elements 
or aspects of it, and then explaining in what way they are to 
be combined. Among these elements happiness and pleasure are 
both included, but they are not the whole; though no doubt 
the kind of happiness and the kind of pleasure which do 
enter into the ideal life are inseparable from those other 
elements of it which we call goodness or the good will, know- 
ledge, thought, the contemplation of beauty, love of other 
persons and of what is best in them. 


AT this point it seems desirable to define further the attitude 
towards two opposite views with regard to the end of human 
life which is implied in the preceding chapters, although the 
question has not yet been raised in its conventional form. On 
the one hand we are met by a doctrine very fashionable in 
philosophical circles which finds the key to all ethical problems 
in that comfortable word ' self-realization ' ; on the other hand 
we have a doctrine, hardly ever expressly adopted in modern 
Europe as the basis of a Moral Philosophy, but prominent in 
much of the popular religious teaching, and some of the highest 
religious teaching, of our age the doctrine which resolves all 
Morality into self-sacrifice. 

With the psychological doctrine that some form of personal 
good is the object of every desire (though that good need not be 
pleasure) I have already dealt. It seems to be open to exactly 
the same objections as those urged by its supporters against 
psychological Hedonism, into a refined form of which the doc- 
trine of self-realization shows a strong tendency to degenerate. 
I shall here therefore confine myself to the purely ethical 
aspect of this fascinating formula ' Self-realization is the end 
of life/ 

In order to subject the doctrine to any profitable criticism, it 
seems necessary to attempt the by no means easy task of dis- 
tinguishing the various possible senses in which this watchword 
seems to be used by its devotees. The formula would probably 
have proved less attractive, had these various senses been distin- 
guished by those to whom it presents itself as a ' short and easy 
way ' out of all ethical perplexities. 


(1) Firstly, then, we may suppose that the upholder of self- 
realization means exactly what he says. If he does, it seems 
easy to show that what he is committing himself to is mere 
self-contradictory nonsense. To realize means to ^make real. 
You cannot make real what is real already, and the self must 
certainly be regarded as real before we are invited to set about 
realizing it 1 . Nor is the task to which we are invited rendered 
easier when we are assured that the self, which is to become 
something that it was not, is out of time, and consequently (one 
might have vSupposed) insusceptible of change. 

(2) But of course it will be said that what is actually meant 
by self-realization is the realization of some potentiality or 
capacity of the self which is at present unrealized. In this 
sense no doubt it is true enough that Morality must consist in 
some kind of self-realization. But to say so is to say something 
'generally admitted indeed but obscure' (o^oKoyov^vov n aAA' 
a<ra</K9), as Aristotle would have put it. In this sense the 
formula gives us just no information at all. Fpr whatever you 
do or abstain from doing, if you only sit still or go to sleep, 
you must still be realizing some one of your capacities : since 
nobody can by any possibility do anything which he was 
not first capable of doing. Morality is self-realization beyond 
i doubt, but then so is immorality. 'JJhe precious formula leaves 
out the whole differentia of Morality; and it is a differentia 
presumably which we are in search of when we ask, * What is 
Morality? ' and are solemnly told, * It is doing or being something 
which you are capable of doing or being V 

(3) It may be maintained that Morality is the realization of 
all the capacities of human nature. But this is impossible, since 
one capacity can only be realized by the non-realization or 
sacrifice of some other capacity. There can be no self-realization 

1 It is of course possible to hold that the self is not real in an ultimate 
metaphysical sense, but in that sense it is hard to see how it can be 
made more real than it is, unless * real ' is used as a mere synonym of 
1 good.' 

2 '" Self-realisation " has always impressed me as a conundrum rather 
than as its solution 1 (Adamson, Development of Modern Philosophy, II, 
p. 109). 


without^self^sacrifice. The good man and the bad alike realize 
one element or capacity of their nature, and sacrifice another. 
The whole question is which capacity is to be realized and which 
is to be sacrificed. And as to this our formula gives us just no 

(4) Or more vaguely self-realization may be interpreted to 
mean an equal, all-round development of one's whole nature 
physical, intellectual, emotional. To such a view I should object 
that, interpreted strictly and literally, it is just as impractic- 
able as the last. It is impossible for the most gifted person to 
become a first-rate Musician without much less completely 
realizing any capacity he has of becoming a first-rate Painter. 
It is impossible to become really learned in one subject without 
remaining ignorant of many others : impossible to develope one's 
athletic capacities to the full without starving and stunting the 
intellect, impossible (as a simple matter of Physiology) to carry 
to its highest point the cultivation of one's intellectual faculties 
without some sacrifice of physical efficiency. There is a similar 
collision between the demands of intellectual cultivation and 
those of practical work. Up to a certain point it is extremely 
desirable no doubt that every man should seek to improve his 
mind, and also to engage in some sort of practical, social activity. 
There is no practical work, except that which is purely mechan- 
ical, which will not be the better done for a little study of some 
kind or other : and, even where a man's ordinary work in life 
is most purely practical, he has, or ought to have, a life of 
practical citizenship outside his daily task which will be enriched 
and enlarged by some kind of intellectual cultivation. It is 
scarcely possible to exaggerate the extent for instance to which 
the efficiency of the clerical or of the scholastic profession 
would be increased if every clergyman and every schoolmaster, 
however much absorbed in the work of his profession, were to 
devote a few hours a week to serious study. And equally 
valuable to the intellectual man is a certain measure of practical 
experience equally valuable, at least in many cases, even in the 
interests of his purely intellectual work. Familiar illustrations 
are to be found in the value to Hume of his diplomatic appoint- 
ment, the value to Macaulay and Grote (as is acknowledged by 


the critics of a nation which has little experience in free political 
life) of their parliamentary careers, the value to Gibbon even 
of a few months' home service in the Hampshire militia. And, 
even in spheres of intellectual labour less connected with practice 
than the writing of History, a literary life may gain some- 
thing from more active occupations. Up to a certain point it is 
no doubt desirable that a man should endeavour to develope 
different sides of his nature : but that point is soon reached. 
Beyond that point there must come the inevitable sacrifice of 
body to mind or of mind to body, of learning or speculative 
insight to practical efficiency or of practical efficiency to learning 
or insight. 

It is the same within the intellectual sphere itself. There too 
the law of sacrifice prevails. Up to a certain point no doubt 
the man who is a mere specialist will be a bad specialist, but 
that point is soon reached. Charles Darwin found that the 
cultivation of reasoning power and observation had extinguished 
his once keen imagination and aesthetic sensibility. And yet 
who would wish whether in the interests of the world or in the 
interests of what was best worthy of development in Charles 
Darwin's own nature that his work should have been spoiled 
in order that one of the three hours which was the maximum 
working day his health allowed should have been absorbed 
by politics or philanthropy ? Who would decide that the origin 
of species should have been undiscovered, in order that the 
man who might have discovered it should retain the power 
of enjoying Wordsworth ? This notion of an equal, all-round, 
' harmonious ' development is thus a sheer impossibility, excluded 
by the very constitution of human nature, and incompatible with 
the welfare of human society. And, in so far as some approxima- 
tion to such an ideal of life is possible, it involves a very 
apotheosis of mediocrity, ineffectiveness, dilettantism. 

And there is a more formidable objection to come. If the 
ideal of self-realization is to be logically carried out, it .guiat 
involve the cultivation of a man's capacity for what vulgar 
prejudice calls immorality as well as of his capacity for Morality. 
It is quite arbitrary to exclude certain kinds of activity as ' bad/ 
because what we are in search of was some definition of the good 


in conduct, and we were told that it was the development of all 
his^capacities. Mr. Bradley would really appear not to shrink 
from the full acceptance of this corollary : 

'This double effort of the mind to enlarge by all means its 
domain, to widen in every way both the world of knowledge and 
the realm of practice, shows us merely two sides of that single 
impulse to self-realization, which most of us are agreed to find 
so mystical. But, mystical or intelligible, we must bow to its 
sway, for escape is impossible V 

( To widen in every direction the sphere of knowledge/ That 
may, in the abstract, be accepted. It would perhaps be hyper- 
critical to suggest that there are some things not worth knowing, 
that it would be an unprofitable employment to count the grains of 
sand upon the sea- shore, and that even the pursuit of knowledge 
must be governed and controlled by a certain selection based 
upon an ideal comparison of values, which is the work of the 
practical Reason. And again it might be well to remember that 
there are things of which (with Mill) we may say that ' it is 
necessary to be aware of them ; but to live in their contempla- 
tion makes it scarcely possible to keep up in oneself a high 
tone of mind. The imagination and feelings become tuned 
to a lower pitch; degrading instead of elevating associations 
become connected with the daily objects and incidents of life, 
and give their colour to the thoughts, just as associations of 
sensuality do in those who indulge freely in that sort of con- 
templations 2 ' a reminder which, in view of Mr. Bradley's plea 
for the apparently unlimited ' freedom of Art/ might seem to 
be not wholly irrelevant. But to ' widen in every direction the 
sphere of practice ' ! In the name of common sense, would not 
an occasional incursion into the higher branches of crime vary 
the sameness of Virtue and the dull monotony of Goodness ? 
Is not a life compounded of good and evil 'wider' than an 
experience which includes only good ? Could the attempt to 
widen ' in every direction ' the sphere of practice end otherwise 
than in a prison or a lunatic asylum if not in both? A 
German thinker has urged that the failure of most Moral 

1 The Principles of Logic, p. 452. 

2 Three Essays on Religion, p. 248. 


Philosophers may be set down to the fact that as a class, 
they have been rather exceptionally respectable men : the Moral 
Philosopher should have experience both of Virtue and of vice l . 
If * wideness * is to be sole criterion of practice, one does not see 
why this catholicity of experience should be confined to pro- 
fessional Moral Philosophers 2 . 

(5) One possible interpretation of our formula remains, gslf- 
tioa may mean the realization of a man's highest capacities 
.sacrifice of the lower. No doubt, in a sense every school 
of Moral Philosophy which allows of the distinction between 
a ' higher ' and a ' lower ' at all would admit that Morality does 
mean the sacrifice of the lower to the higher though it might 
be objected that this ideal, taken literally, is too ascetic : the 
lower capacities of human nature have a certain value: they 
ought to be realized to a certain extent to be subordinated, not 
' sacrificed/ except in so far as their realization is inconsistent 
with that of the higher. But then there is nothing of all this in 
the word ' self-realization/ And even with the gloss that ' self- 
realization' means realization of the 'true' or 'higher' self, it 
tells us just nothing at all about the question what this true 

1 See Simmel's article on ' Moral Deficiencies as determining Intellectual 
Functions' in the International Journal of Ethics, Vol. Ill, July, 1893, p. 490. 
Of course I do not profess here to do full justice to the distinguished writer's 

2 'The sinner realises capabilities in this broad sense as much as 
the saint. I lay stress on this, because it is important to recognise that one 
of the subtlest and deepest of the impulses that prompt intellectual natures 
to vice is the desire for full and varied realisation of capabilities, for rich- 
ness of experience, for fulness of life ' (Sidgwick, Ethics of Green, Spencer 
and Martineau, p. 64). 

In a recent article on 'Truth and Practice* (Mind, N. S. no. 51, 1904, 
p 322) Mr. Bradley writes, ' I have of course not forgotten that there are 
" developments " of human nature which are undesirable and vicious. Why 
these are undesirable is a question which I cannot discuss here. The answer 
in general is that such things not only are contrary to the interest of our 
whole nature, but also are hostile to the realisation of that very side of it 
to which they belong.' If Mr. Bradley had always remembered this and 
iome other things which he says in this article, the above criticism would 
have been unnecessary. A thinker who is so ready to find contradictions or 
absurdities in other people should surely be a little more precise in his own 
use of language. 

Chap, iii, i] HIGHER AND LOWER SELF 67 

self -realisation is. In fact the formula which is presented to us 
as the key to the ethical problem of the end of life, turns out 
on examination to mean merely ' The end of life is the end of 
life/ No .doubt it has been said that every attempt to define 
Morality must have the appearance of moving in a circle. In 
a sense that may be the case. The moral cannot be defined 
in terms of the non-moral. But then that is just what 
our formula attempts to do, and that is just the source of its 
futility. Moreover, when the word ' self-realization ' is presented 
to us, not merely as an account of the end, but also as the 
immediate criterion for the individual's conduct, it is open to 
the objection that it says exactly nothing about the fundamental 
question of Ethics the question of the relation of my end to 
that of others. 

(6) This last difficulty would be removed if, with Mr. Bradley 
in one of his phases (a phase difficult to reconcile with the 
definition given above), we contend that the_&elL which ie 
realized in Morality, actually includes in itself all the selves in 
wlioinj ,_feel au interest: 

* If rny self which I aim at is the realization in me of a moral 
world which is a system of selves, an organism in which I am a 
member, and in whose life I live then I cannot aim at my OWE 
well-being without aiming at that of others. The others are 
not mere means to me, but are involved in my essence V 

Now to the adoption of self-realization in this sense as an 
answer to the ethical problem I should object (a) that the in- 
terpretation is not the one which is naturally suggested by that 
term. IJLtlie., end of life is (in part or in whole) to attain the 
ends of others besides myself, that is a most important truth 
which should surely be emphasized in any answer, however 
summary, to the question, ' What is the end of life ? ' ; and not 
left to be understood in a formula which takes no explicit account 
of it. (b) We are as far off as ever from knowing what the 
' realization ' of the other selves, which is included in the realiza- 
tion of mine, really is. (c) The proposition that I cannot attain 
my end without promoting the end of others is at all events 

1 Ethical Studies, p. 105. 


an intelligible proposition. Not so, I respectfully submit, the 
proposition that ' others are involved in my essence V Such 
an assertion seems to me to ignore the very essence of self- 
hood, which excludes an absorption or inclusion in otjier selves, 
however closely related to us. Of course, Mr. Bradley will reply 
that we cannot distinguish a thing from its relations. And yet 
Mr. Bradley has himself taught us no one more effectively 
that there cannot be relations without something to relate. No 
doubt a thing, which does not exist for itself, but only in and for 
a mind, cannot even in thought be abstracted from its relations : 
the thing is made what it is by its intelligible relations, if we 
include in its relations the content which it has for a mind 
other than itself. But this is not so with a self. Unquestion- 
ably there can be no subject without an object ; the very nature 
of a subject is constituted by its knowledge of such and such 
objects. The objects that it knows are part of the self ; in the 
view of a thorough-going Idealism, indeed, the subject and its 
experiences make up one spiritual being. But, all the same, of 
such a spiritual being it is not true that it is made what it 
is by its relation to other spiritual beings in the same way as 
a mere thing, which exists for others and not for itself, is made 
what it is by its relations. The thing has no exse except to be 
felt, thought, experienced ; the way it enters into the experience 
of minds is the only sort of being it possesses. On the other 
hand, the * esse f of the soul is to think, to feel, to experience. 
This thinking, feeling, experiencing does undoubtedly include 
relations to other selves ; but such relations are not the whole of 
its being. The experiences of a soul may be like those of another 
soul : they may be caused by and dependent upon the experiences 
of another soul. But the experiences of one soul cannot be or 
become identical with the experience of another soul : the content 
of two consciousnesses may be the same the universal abstracted 
from the particular, but not the reality 2 : neither, therefore, can 
the good of one soul or self be the good of another, or be included 
in or be part of the good of another. Hence, if we are to avoid 

1 A position further developed in the Chapter on ' Good ' in Appearance 
and Reality. 
8 I have further discussed this matter below in Bk. Ill, chap. i. 


a mysticism which frankly takes leave of intelligibility, we 
cannot include any realization of the capacities of others in our 
conception of self-realization, however essential to such realiza- 
tion the good of others may be. If all that is meant is that 
other selves may be ends to me, not mere means, that is pre- 
cisely the point which is usually disguised, if it is not denied, by 
those who employ the formula * self-realization.' The tendency 
of. the phrase is to represent all moral conduct as motived by 
a jlesire for my own good, into which consideration of others 
can only enter as means to the realization of my end. Even if 
there be a more ultimate metaphysical sense in which my self 
and others are really the same self, that is not in the sense with 
which we have to do with selves in Ethics : in Ethics at least we 
are concerned with the relations between a plurality <3f selves l . 

Further defence of this last objection would carry us more 
deeply into the metaphysical region than it would be in place 
to go at present. But I trust that what has l>een said will be 
enough to suggest that there is nothing to be gained by. the use 
of this ambiguous, mysterious term. It tells us nothing im- 
portant, nothing that could not be better expressed in some other 
way. It is an attempt to evade the real problems of Morality 
instead of answering them. That is sufficiently indicated by the 
fact that it is equally popular with writers whose real ethical 
ideals are as wide apart as the poles with the school of the late 
Professor Green and with the school of Mr. Bradley, with those 
whose ideal is austere to the point of Asceticism and with those 
by whom a large part of what the plain man calls Morality is 
regarded as an exploded superstition. For some people it has the 
attraction of a vague, imposing technicality, acting like ' that 
comfortable word Mesopotamia ' upon the mind of the pious old 
woman. With others ijLls. a mere cover for a more or less 
refined Hedonism ^ What they really mean is 'the end of life 

1 * From " self-seeking " to disinterested benevolence there is no road, and 
the apparent subsumption of both under a common name by the theory of 
self-realisation, turns out at closer inspection to be little more than a piece 
of verbal legerdemain ' (Taylor, The Problem of Conduct, p. 193). 

2 I do not say that this is so with any English Philosopher of repute , but 
bhe possibility of thus understanding the phrase accounts for the enthusiasm 
Df some of its younger votaries. 


is to have a good time/ but they do not quite like to say so 
because there is a vulgar prejudice against that view; and 
besides, in academic circles there is a general consensus that 
Hedonism is unphilosophical. To minds of a highep order no 
doubt the term appeals simply because it is a protest against the 
practical exaggerations and the logical difficulties of the attempt 
to exalt ' self -sacrifice 1 into an all-sufficing expression of the moral 
ideal. The best way, therefore, of bringing out the truth 
expressed as it seems to me, badly and cumbrously expressed 
by the use of the term * self-realization ' will be to examine the 
claims of the counter-ideal of self-sacrifice to sum up in itself 
the essence of all Morality. 


Why cannot the ideal of self-sacrifice be accepted as the last 
word in Ethics ? 

(1) For the same reason that we saw to be fatal to the 
antagonistic formula of ' self-realization.' Just as there can be 
no self-realization or (to use a term less open to objection) ' self- 
development ' without self-sacrifice, so there _can be jjojself- 
sacrific^ witliouk,&eUriaBali^jaition. In denying or sacrificing one 
part or element or jcapacity of the self, a man is necessarily 
asserting or developing another. Complete or absolute self- 
sacrifice is possible only in the form of suicide, if even so ; for 
after all suicide is always a kind of self-assertion, and often a 
kind of selfishness. What-of course is meant by those who use 
the term is that the highest self is to be asserted or developed, 
and that the individual attains his true end by the sacrifice of 
his lower inclinations or desires for the sake of other people. 
To gain the lower life is to lose the higher : to lose the lower is 
to gain the true life. That is the very essence of the highest 
moral teaching that the world has known. But then the formula 
'self-sacrifice' only expresses one half of that doctrine; and 
the one-sided formula often leads to much one-sidedness and 
exaggeration in ethical thought and even in practical Morality. 

(2) It needs little reflection to show that sJlrsaGi?ific& 0* its 
ooaoi #ke ia always irrational and immoral. It is the object for 
which the sacrifice is made that gives it its moral value. Ijjig 

Chap, iii, ii] IDEAL OF SELF-SACRIFICE 71 

aiway*.SQme good of another or some higher gcxxTaf the indi- 
viduaLthat is the object of legitimate self-sacrifice. On reflection 
this would probably be admitted by the austerest of ascetics. 
The fleshes to be subdued to the spirit that is the theory 
of Asceticism. And to a large extent the fallacy of Asceticism 
in its ordinary sense consists in a sheer psychological mistake 
about the tendency of bodily austerities or privations to promote 
a higher and more spiritual life. That long-continued hunger 
will eventually lead men to see visions and dream dreams which, 
in minds educated in a certain way, will assume a religious form, 
is no doubt a psychological fact, which is of great importance 
historically as supplying at least a partial explanation of the 
practice of fasting as a religious rite. But (waiving the ques- 
tion of the religious value of such psychical states or of the 
less vivid ecstasies which may sometimes be produced by fasting 
of a less extreme character) it is the testimony of countless 
ascetics in all ages 1 that the more they scourged and tormented 
themselves, stood up to their chins in swamps or rolled themselves 
among thorns, the more gross became their sensual imaginings 
the more clamorous and insistent their passions. In less extreme 
cases it is probable that there has been an enormous exaggera- 
tion of the spiritual value, for the great majority at least, oi 
solitude, hardship, and privation. The tendency of such self- 
conscious effort to crush the appetites is simply to concentrate 
attention upon them. In general, a man's mind is not raised 
above the level of the lower desires and animal inclinations bj 
austerity, but by healthy preoccupation with social or intel- 
lectual activity. Of course there may be room for Asceticism 
by way of discipline. We may deny ourselves in things that dc 
not matter in order to strengthen the will in resistance tc 
inclination where it does matter, But it may be doubted 
whether the self -consciousness attendant upon such self-inflicted 
disciplinary privations at least in communities where they are 
not recognized by social custom is not a grave objection to them. 
The real needs of our fellow men afford the completest scope 

1 Even to the attenuated fasts of modern times these remarks are not 
wholly inapplicable. There is a sermon of Cardinal Newman on * -Fa sting a 
Source of Trial/ Ought temptations to be artifically multiplied ? 


for rational curtailment of the lower kinds of self-indulgence, 
whether this takes the form of periodical abstinence, of habitual 
moderation, or of self-denial in other things besides eating and 

But, whatever may be thought about the kind and degree of 
self-denial which really promote the higher life, there will be 
little quarrel with the general principle that sglj^sacrifice is not 
the end, but a means to the good of others or to the higher good 
qf the mail himself : and perhaps it will even be admitted that self- 
denial for our own spiritual good is more likely to attain its end, 
the more directly the indulgence which is surrendered stands in 
the way of something higher for instance, by wasting time 
or money which might be employed upon self-improvement or 
social service. This will generally be conceded : and yet there 
can be no doubt that in practice the greaching^of Asceticism has 
a tendency to degenerate into the idea that self -inflicted pain 
h&a ia ;& something intrinsically virtuous or meritorious and is 
therefore well-pleasing to God, even when God is conceived of 
as a righteous and loving Father. And at one point such a 
notion may find formal defenders among Christian Theologians 9 
There has been in various ages, if there does not now survive, 
a widespread belief in the expiatory value of suffering. Such 
a notion seems to be implied in the retributive theory of 
punishment which has already been examined and rejected. If 
punishment really does wipe out guilt or assert the Moral Law 
or what not, there seems no reason why it should be confined 
to. the case of legal offences or why it should not be self-inflicted ; 
and it might even be contended plausibly enough that its ex- 
piatory value need not be diminished when the penalty is paid 
by some one other than the sufferer \ As I have already discussed 

1 It is a deeply significant fact that, according to some authorities, the 
original idea of ritual sacrifice was not expiation, but communion with the 
Deity through participation in the common meal originally the blood of 
the Totem-animal. The idea of expiation only came in because the natural 
way of renewing the tie between the tribe and the god when it had been 
weakened through an offence seemed to be a special repetition of the act by 
which the blood-bond had been created and kept alive. Thus the idea of 
expiation as the dominant idea in sacrifice represents a degradation of the 
original conception. (See Robertson Smith's Chapter on ' Sacrifice ' in his 


what is virtually the same question in connexion with the theory 
of punishment, I need only add that I can see no meaning in 
expiation except the tendency of suffering (under certain con- 
ditions) to. make the sufferer morally better. Even within the 
limits of severely orthodox Theology much support might be 
found for the proposition that the remission of sins necessarily 
follows upon repentance, and that repentance ultimately means 
change of will or character. 

(3) Not only does a one-sided doctrine of self -sacrifice 
exaggerate the value of thwarting lower desires as a means to 
the gratification of the higher, but it errs by denying all value 
to those lower goods the surrender of which it advocates. In 
the first place it fails to appreciate the fact that desires other 
than the pure impulse to do one's duty for its own sake have 
a value of their own, and may become, when duly regulated, 
the basis of the highest virtues : and that is the case not merely 
with such purely intellectual impulses as the love of know- 
ledge, but with many which, in themselves and apart from their 
subordination to a higher purpose, are purely animal, and may 
degenerate into the inspiring motives of crime and vice. The 
raw material, so to speak, of Virtue and Vice are the same 
i. e. desires which in themselves, abstracted from their relation 
to the higher self, are not either moral or immoral but simply 
non -moral 1 . Anger in some forms is the most an ti- social of all 
passions : while indignation against vice is an essential element 
in the ideal character. To hate the right things, to hate that 
in persons which is worthy of hatred, is as essential an object 
of all moral education as to love the right things, and to love 
those possibilities of higher things which exist in the vilest. An 
animal impulse is to many men the basis of the most powerful 
temptation and of the highest affection that they ever know. 

Religion of the Semites, p. 213 sq., and Jevons, History of Religion, p. 144 sq.) 
Whatever may be thought of the chronological order of the ideas, 
the corruption and degradation of Religion at every stage" of its develop- 
ment is closely connected with the prominence of the idea* of expiation as 
compared with that of communion or fellowship between the Deity and his 

1 *E* rS>v avT&v KOI ftia TG>*> avr&v KOI ytWrni nava iiptrrj KOI <0eipeTcu. Aris- 
totle, Eth, Nic. II. i. (p. 1103 &). 


The gregarious instinct that prompts us to seek the society and 
approval of our fellow-men is the most fruitful source of moral 
failure when it attaches itself to narrow social circles and low 
social ideals : duly developed in a certain direction and cultivated 
in a certain way it blossoms into the ' enthusiasm of humanity/ 
The denial of this truth forms the great fallacy into which the 
ascetics of all ages have fallen. The principle was inadequately 
grasped by Plato, who, while recognizing the moral usefulness 
of the combative instinct (TO 0v/xoei6^$) as the ally of Reason 
against the lower passions, did not see that these too were 
capable of being, and ought to be in various degrees, educated 
and guided by Reason, instead of being merely crushed and 
suppressed. It was ignored by Kant when he thought that 
every wise man would fain be wholly free from desire. It was 
ignored by the Stoics when they recommended the suppression 
of emotion. It is the great glory of Aristotle, and of his dis- 
ciples the mediaeval Schoolmen, to have grasped firmly the idea 
that Reason should control, discipline, regulate the desires instead 
of extinguishing them, and that rightly regulated desire is as 
essential an element of the ideal character as the paramount 
supremacy of Reason or Conscience l . 

(4) In certain directions and to a certain extent, then, all 
natural impulses are susceptible of being taken up into, and 
actually transformed into, those more social tendencies of the self 
the predominance of which is ordinarily spoken of as self-sacri- 
fice. But, even where this is not the case, moral Reason does no< 
seem to sanction the idea that these lower desires, or the good* 
which are the objects of them, possess no intrinsic value at all 
The ideal human life does demand a certain amount of these 

1 This constitutes the real meaning and importance of the doctrine that 
Virtue is a mean nepl nadrj KO\ irpd&is, a mean between the excess and defect 
of each kind of feeling or acting, however inadequate such a doctrine may 
be as a moral criterion. Aristotle's mistake was to give an exaggerated 
prominence to one of the most important ways in which Reason regulates 
the irdOr) and Trpnf etf, that of quantity ; this made it necessary to find two 
vices between which to place each virtue. This can generally be done, but 
not always. The inadequacy and unsatisfactoriness of Aristotle's list of 
virtues arises largely from the necessity of excluding all virtues which cannot 
conveniently be squeezed into the form of a mean between two vices 

Chap, iii, ii] ASCETICISM 75 

lower goods. The ideal human life is not a life of pain and want 
and discomfort. The ascetic seldom suggests that we should 
promote such a life for others. To be virtuous on the rack is 
better thap^ to be vicious off' it ; but there is one thing that is 
better than being virtuous on the rack, and that is to be virtuous 
off it. c It is better ' (according to the admission of J. S. Mill) 
'to be Socrates dissatisfied than to be a fool satisfied:' but there 
is one thing that is better than either to be Socrates satisfied. 
What is the relation of the higher and the lower goods, what 
amount or degree of the lower is consistent with or most con- 
ducive to the due predominance of the higher in human lives, 
is a question about which men may reasonably differ, but it 
must not be assumed that it is always the irreducible minimum. 
And the true answer will of course be different for different 
men. The great practical mistake of the more moderate ascetic 
teaching has been to lay upon average men burdens too great for 
them, to require a repression of natural instincts and desires which 
in them (whatever be the case with exceptional natures) does not 
promote the healthy development of character and the efficient 
conduct of life. The necessity of exercise, amusement, society, 
even in the interests of moral Well-being, is recognized by the 
best religious Ethics of the present day as it has hardly been 
recognized by the religious teaching of the past. This of course, 
it may be said, implies merely the treatment of those lower 
goods as means to a higher end : but it would be perhaps hard 
to defend the place which the best men of our day would assign 
to them in the life which they want to promote for the mass of 
men without admitting that there are elements in the ideal life 
elements possessing an independent, though subordinate, worth 
of their own other than the cultivation of the good will, other 
than socially useful activity or high intellectual cultivation. And 
even for the best men it is hardly felt that it is wrong to eat or 
drink more than is absolutely essential to health, to spend time 
in conversation or light reading that might without mental 
breakdown be devoted to work. Or, if for exceptional persons 
it is felt that this indulgence of lower goods ought to be cut 
down to the minimum point that is compatible with the maximum 
of social efficiency, we should probably on reflection justify this 


course, partly on the ground that such men will attain the 
greatest good for them in exertions which go beyond the powers 
of most ; and partly on the principle that, if for some persons 
it is a duty to sacrifice much that is not normally inconsistent 
with the predominance of the highest interests, the sacrifice is 
demanded by the value of the other lives which are helped by 
their exertions, without any disparagement or contempt for the 
ordinary sources of healthy human enjoyment. The ascetic life 
which is devoted to the procuring of an enjoyable life for others, 
for the sake of that life, is no longer ascetic in principle. 

(5) And that brings us to a last necessary qualification of the 
one-sided ideal of self-sacrifice. Normally and in the abstract, 
Reason does not demand that a man should give up any good of 
his own except for the greater good of some one else. And, in 
estimating the greatness of the good, we must of course not 
include the good implied by the sacrifice itself. The test would 
become nugatory if we held that the man who sacrifices himself 
always gets the greater good, just because his act is one of self- 
sacrifice. Speaking broadly and generally, Reason does not (as 
it appears to me) hold that it is good to promote (say) the 
comfort and convenience of another person by the sacrifice of 
a much greater comfort and convenience of one's own. Of 
course the .stronger altruistic impulses will tend to overleap this 
restriction, to 

reject the lore 
Of nicely calculated less or more. 

And there may be times and circumstances in which the calmest 
reflection may discern such a beauty and propriety in the sacri- 
fice that it will pronounce { good on the whole ' to result from 
it, as when a mother, not grudgingly or of necessity but willingly 
and spontaneously, gives up much more for her child than he 
will gain by the sacrifice : but normally and apart from any 
special circumstances or relations of the persons, I do not think 
it can be said that we do on calm reflection approve the sacrifice 
of more for less. If Sir Walter Raleigh's act in spreading his 
cloak in the mud to make a dry place for Queen Elizabeth to 
walk on be approved in spite of the fact that the gain to the 
Queen was probably smaller than the damage to Sir Walter's 


cloak, it must be on account of the special relation in which 
a Queen stands to her subject. 

(6) The requirement of unlimited Altruism would involve 
self -contradiction. If I judge that another's pleasure is a good 
thing for me to promote I cannot logically deny that my own 
pleasure is a good too a good intrinsically worthy of being 
promoted. It cannot be right for me to spend my labour in 
producing that which it is wrong for another to receive in 
growing fruit, for instance, which it would be wicked for another 
to eat. At some point or other enjoyment must begin: the 
end of life cannot be a continual passing on of something to 
another. It may be urged that the ideal is that I should be 
producing something for another, and find my good in doing so: 
while lie is working in turn for my good, and finds his good in 
doing so. That is no doubt the true ideal a life in which 
work for lower needs is elevated by becoming social or reciprocal, 
enjoyment of lower goods consecrated by being shared. But 
common sense will clearly set some limit to this exchange of 
services : some things each of us does better for himself than 
another can do them for him. The greater part of most ordinarily 
good men's lives resists this sharp distinction into an egoistic and 
an altruistic part : it is egoistic and altruistic at the same time. 
But this very interchange of services, which is at the basis of 
all social life, would be impossible if men would not consent to 
be served as well as to serve. We may share enjoyment with 
another, but not the enjoyment of the very same thing; two 
people cannot possibly eat the same apple. If the apple is ever 
to be eaten instead of being passed on, that implies a limit to 
Altruism 1 . If it were never right for me to eat it, it would not 
be right for me to encourage the egoism of my neighbour by 
inviting him to do so. 

So Long as we confine ourselves to the higher goods, the 
limitation of altruistic self-sacrifice in the interests of personal 

1 I am here thinking of the normal or average man. What is said about 
limitations to self-sacrifice (and to Asceticism in so far as self-sacrifice involves 
Ascfeticism) must be qualified by what is said below in the chapteron* Vocation.' 
In particular cases much sacrifice may be right which would become irrational 
if imposed upon all. 


culture will readily be admitted. It will be conceded that 
the whole energy of a community ought not to be absorbed 
in the production of material goods ; nor can it well be conceived 
of as being entirely absorbed in the work of mutual, edification, 
in the direct improvement of each other's characters. What is 
to be done then with the rest of it ? Various forms of intellectual 
or aesthetic self-development and enjoyment seem to remain as 
the only possible object of rational pursuit. No doubt most 
intellectual activities are capable of assuming a social direction. 
I can write books or compose poetry or research or play the 
piano for the benefit of others, and not merely for my own 
enjoyment. But then it cannot be right for me to play or com- 
pose music which it would be sinful waste of time for another 
to listen to. It is clear, therefore, that some portion of an 
individual's time and energy may rightly be given to the enjoy- 
ment of higher goods for their own sake without any further 
social object. 

With regard to lower goods, more scruple may be felt at the 
employment of this argument. It may be said that there is 
really no inconsistency in holding that it is always better to 
surrender to another any lower object of enjoyment which is 
not positively demanded by my own efficiency, and therefore, 
ultimately, the good of others : for it is not because it is good 
for another to enjoy himself that I think it right to make the 
sacrifice, but because it is a charitable act and beneficial to my 
character to give him that pleasure. But, onco agairi A if pleasure 
is not to be thought of as a good, how can it be morally good to 
spend time and labour in producing it ? And, if it is good for 
another, it must be good up to whatever point, within whatever 
limits for me also. The ideal of unlimited self-sacrifice involves 
obvious and inevitable self-contradiction. 


Considerations like these may easily be pushed to the point of 
representing that the idea of self-sacrifice forms no essential 
part of the true moral ideal. That ideal, it may be urged, is 
always the subordination of the lower to the higher the 
development of the different parts of the man's nature not, 


indeed, in all directions equally, but in the true order of their 
relative worth or importance. And in this subordination there 
need be nothing which can be properly called sacrifice at all 
no sense of pain or contraction, no struggle or resistance to 
inclination. For the good man will recognize in social service 
the opportunity of developing his truest self. It will cost him 
no pain to be temperate, to control his appetites, to be (within 
reasonable limits) unselfish and hard-working : for he sees that 
these things are for his own good. All his desires are so com- 
pletely dominated and directed by Reason that he has no desire 
for indulgences which would interfere with perfect intellectual 
clearness and perfect control of appetite : he loves work, occupa- 
tion in the service of the community, or some intellectual pursuit 
for its own sake. This perfect 'harmony' between the various 
elements of a man's nature, it may be urged, is the true ideal. 
Self-sacrifice must be at most an incident of imperfect ' adjust- 
ment ' between the individual and his environment. The require- 
ment of it must belong to the imperfect Morality of youth ; to 
the youth of the race, or at most to the defective organization 
of human society. This line of thought is in various forms so 
prevalent that, at the risk of some repetition, it may be worth 
while to consider what amount of truth we can recognize in it. 
Briefly I should reply that the kind of harmony which such 
speculations bid us seek is rendered for ever impossible (i) by 
the nature of man, (2) by the nature of things, (3) by the nature 
of human society. 

(i) The extinction of self-sacrifice, felt as such, is inconsistent 
with the attainment of the highest character owing to the 
constitution of human nature. 

That Virtue cannot be attained without a struggle was 
admitted even by Aristotle. But then to Aristotle the man was 
not. good until the virtuQiwu-UwUttt^^ fully formed. He 
assumed, .that the imperfectly virtuous acts by which the habit 
of virtuous action was formed would be done from some non- 
moral motive. How the repetition of a series of acts influenced 
by ivholly non-moral motives would result in a habit of acting 
frqm moral motives, of doing the virtuous act for its own sake, 
is never satisfactorily explained; that is the great hiatus of 


Aristotle's ethical system. So far is it from being true that 
there is no moral value in the struggle against temptation 
so long as the pleasantness of the pleasure renounced is felt, 
that moral value seems to the modern mind to be at its maximum 
in such struggles l . The amount of struggle which goes to the 
formation of a virtuous character is no doubt very various. To 
some men goodness seems more or less to come naturally ; to 
others only after long and strenuous conflict. That natural 
tendency to evil which Theologians have called 'original sin' 
seems to be very unequally distributed ; and very unequal 
in different men is the strength of those purely animal impulses 
which, though in themselves not evil, do not at once submit 
to rational control. The needful struggle is doubtless pro- 
portionately unequal. But it is difficult- t^-8ee~4io: 
some struggle a virtuous eh&r&eter eaB-be-logttiecl at all. 
tainly, in the absence of temptation the character cannot fee 
tested ; and until the character has been tested, there would 
seem to be rather the potentiality of Virtue or character tk&*t 
the actuality of it. The struggle need not be always kept up, 
but it must have been gone through. Perhaps we may have 
in this consideration some glimpse of a clue to the real meaning 
of evil in a rationally governed Universe. But at all events, 
confining ourselves to human life as we know it, we may 
say that it is in and through the struggle that the good will 
most emphatically asserts itself. In this sense at all events 
Morality can never lose the aspect of self-sacrifice. 

But is this alU When is this education of the character 
to stop? Even Aristotle admitted that for the mass of men 
the necessity of moral discipline, in the shape of Law, was 
not confined to youth ; and that implies that for them at least 
the desirable harmony could not be practically attained in 
absolute perfection. It was probably the extreme moderation 
of the demands which, under ordinary circumstances, Aristotle's 

1 It is curious to find a writer so little prone to any form of Rigorism as 
Simmel exaggerating this aspect of Morality so far as to maintain that 
there is no merit except where the virtuous impulse has had to struggle 
against another, and that the merit is proportionate to the effort (Einleitung, 
T, p. 264*5.). 


ethical code imposed upon the inclinations of a cultivated Greek 
gentleman that prevented his recognizing that that desirable 
condition in which nothing that waa wrong would ever present 
itsalLaa4ll^aant was practically not attainable in this life even 
by the best of men. This consideration will at least suggest 
the practical danger of making * harmony ' the primary aim 
of moral effort : the feeling of ' harmony ' in the self-satisfied 
man of culture, like the 'peace' of conventional religionism, 
is quite as likely in practice to be the outcome of a low ideal 
as of a perfected * habit ' of Virtue. Still, it may be urged, 
however far off and difficult of attainment it may be, ' harmony ' 
is the ideal : the feeling of struggle is always a note of imper- 
fection. But is this always and necessarily so ? 

Aristotle's account of the formation of the virtuous ' habit ' 
with the consequent disappearance of struggle is no doubt 
a fairly accurate description of the inner life of the good 
man under favourable circumstances, so long as we confine 
ourselves to the very limited range of moral experience which 
was probably present to Aristotle's mind. We should not think 
highly of a man who continued to feel very painfully throughout 
life the struggle to prevent the more violent explosions of 
temper or to avoid grossly over-eating and over-drinking 
himself. No doubt the effort to overcome the more vulgar 
or animal temptations does normally become indefinitely easier 
after a certain period of resistance. But does it always do so ? 
And is not the extent to which it does so quite as much de- 
pendent upon physiological constitution as upon character? 
Can we say that a man's character is defective because a healthy 
appetite would always prompt him to eat somewhat more than 
a sedentary life or a weak digestion or a slender purse or the 
claims of others may make it his duty to take? Is a man 
intemperate because he could always enjoy one more glass of 
wine or a better wine than it is right habitually to indulge 
in ? No doubt in normal cases, where the mind is duly occupied 
with higher interests, and where outward circumstances are 
favourable, the struggle does become something which it sounds 
a little ridiculous to call pain or sacrifice. But, however small, 
the struggle is sufficient to prevent our talking of perfect 



harmony. It must be remembered, however, that there are 
other passions against which in some men the struggle is longer 
and fiercer; and then again we cannot limit our attention 
to these grosser temptations. There are temptations which 
are closely connected with the development of the higher part 
of a man's nature. Every moral conquest brings subtler tempta- 
tions with it spiritual pride, love of power, love of every- 
thing good (other than the supreme good) above its true 
value, at the wrong time, in the wrong place. It would 
not be a note of perfection but of imperfection not to feel 
temptations such as these. However attenuated in the higher 
oharaciers^the struggle may become (though I am not sure that 
it is in the highest characters that the struggle is mildest), $till 
tb.e mere feeling that something which in not right would 
be in itself very nice is enough to preclude the possibility of 
absolutely unruffled ' harmony/ and to compel us to regard self- 
sacrifice as a necessary element in all Morality as it exists under 
present human conditions. And that brings me to my second point. 

(2) The extinction of self-sacrifice is inconsistent with the 
nature of things with the actual conditions of life on this planet. 

Even Aristotle admitted that it was only under perfectly 
favourable circumstances that the exercise of Virtue brought 
with it complete and perfect eiSatfxoria. ' External supplies 
to a greater or a lesser extent ' were necessary freedom from 
pain and grave misfortune ; free scope for the energies and 
activities, moral and intellectual, in the exercise of which true 
happiness was to be found. And this was not all. There 
was at least one virtue whose exercise was normally painful. 
The courageous man would no doubt feel the joy of battle ; 
he would feel pleasure at the accomplishment of his desire to do 
brave deeds : but toil and wounds and death were not less 
painful to him than to other men nay, more so, inasmuch as 
it is to the best men that life is most desirable l . Now the 

1 Aristotle, Eth. NIC. III. 9 ( p. 1117 1). The passage concludes : ot> bfj iv 
and<rais ralf aptrats TO qdc'o? cixpyiiv \mdp\t ^ n\r)i> *'<' 8vov rot) rcXou? f 0a7rrercu. 
The last words contain the truth which the psychological Hedonists and 
the ' self-realizers ' exaggerate. They forget that this pleasure is often, as 
Aristotle points out, very small in comparison with the surrounding pain. 

Chap, iii, iii] 'EXTERNAL SUPPLIES' 83 

absence of favourable circumstances, which from the point of 
view of the affluent Greek gentleman might be fairly treated 
as exceptional, is in truth with the mass of human beings 
the normal state of things. What presented itself to Aristotle 
as a somewhat anomalous characteristic of a particular virtue 
is, to an age which recognizes social obligations in excess of 
Aristotle's standard, the normal accompaniment at least of 
the higher kinds of moral effort. The virtue no doubt brings 
pleasure, but the circumstances of the struggle are painful. 
Opposition, unpopularity, failure, ill health, boredom, monotony 
these at the lowest (to say nothing of the graver ills of more 
strenuous and heroic lives) good men must normally be prepared 
to face in greater or less degree, and the acceptance of such 
evils often the direct consequence of their goodness consti- 
tutes self-sacrifice. The amount of such things which the good 
man has to face varies no doubt enormously. A man is not 
necessarily to be thought less good because the circumstances 
of his life make the exercise of his capacities pleasant and 
interesting to himself: but still in a rough way it is true 
that what are in our view tlisi- _noblet .-qualities of human 
ctuuaiiter less so no doubt in Aristotle's view, still less so 
in that of modern paganizing Moralists have normally to 
be exhibited in ways which involve a good deal that is un- 
pleasant. And in the most fortunate lives the mere necessity 
of working when one is tired would be enough to prevent 
our taking the pleasantness of our activity as an all-sufficient 
index of the degree to which a virtuous 'habit' has been 
formed. Aristotle, it is probable, would hardly have recognized 
under normal circumstances the necessity of a man working 
when he would rather rest. It is doubtful whether even a 
leading statesman in ancient Athens was required to pass many 
more hours in an office than was agreeable and hygienic : and 
as to theoretic activities, why should a Greek gentleman of 
independent means (and no one else could be truly virtuous), 
who studied, and researched, and talked for his own pleasure 
and not for the sake of others, go on thinking or reading or 
writing when he was tired 1 In Aristotle's view working when 
one was tired might be left to slaves. By any one who is 


not prepared to admit either that it is always right to stop 
work when one is tired, or that physical weariness is a sign 
of moral imperfection, the idea of the complete correspondence 
between duty and inclination, even in the best men, must 
be given up. And if so, we must look upon self -sacrifice as 
no mere accidental, temporary, or occasional accompaniment 
of Morality, but as a very important element in the normal 
virtuous life. Inasmuch as it asserts this fact, the popular 
tendency to identify Morality with self-sacrifice possesses far 
more and far deeper truth than the ' self-realization ' doctrine 
of our ethical exquisites. 

(3) The attempt to banish self-sacrifice from the virtuous 
life is inconsistent with the structure of human society. 

The nature of man and of his material environment is such, 
we have seen, that even the effort to develope his own highest 
capacities cannot always, even in the best men, be altogether 
free from painful struggle. Still more obvious and still more 
serious is the collision between the claims of the individual and 
the claims of his fellows. The fullest development of what 
might (apart from such social considerations) be regarded as 
the highest capacities of the individual is, not exceptionally 
but normally, inconsistent with the development of those same 
capacities in others. Both the material and the higher interests 
of mankind constantly demand of the individual the sacrifice 
of his personal culture and self-development physical, emo- 
tional, and (in a sense) even moral, i. e. many sides of character 
which it would in the abstract be good to cultivate. The fullest 
development of the individual must be sacrificed in order that 
there may be some development of other individuals. Or, 
if we say that the social self which is cultivated by the 
sacrifice of intellectual growth and emotional culture is after 
all the highest self, still the sacrifice of lower capacities to 
capacities in themselves good and noble must be made long 
before the point at which it could be said that they positively 
interfere with the higher, except in so far as their further 
cultivation is incompatible with the highest principle of all 
the principle of submission to that moral Reason which dictates 
the subordination of the individual's good to the requirements 

Chap, iv, iv] RECONCILIATION 85 

of social Well-being. If that * harmony * or wholeness in the 
moral life on which it is the fashion to insist means the 
subordination of all other impulses to this, then indeed the 
harmony is possible. If it is this self that is to be ' realized/ 
then indeed self-realization is possible, but such a self-realization 
is necessarily also a limitation : it involves, that is to say, much 
of what ordinary men call self-sacrifice sacrifice not merely of 
the bad self but of much that is intrinsically good and noble l . 
There is no realization of the ' self ' as a whole, or even of 
the ' higher self as a whole: and, if that is so, it were best 
surely to avoid putting forward the catch- word ' self-realization ' 
as the essential feature of the moral life. 


Arid yet, as I have already endeavoured to show, the ideal of 
self-sacrifice, though it undoubtedly insists on what is from a 
practical point of view a more important aspect of the moral 
life than ' seJirJ^alizaiion/ is no less one-sided. It failalQ. ex- 
press ,the fact that Morality is the individual's highest good 
and Jgu-therefore not altogether sacrifice : and it fails to express 
the truth that the i< does include other elemental. besides 
self-sacrificing social eefviee some of them elements of high 
intrinsic worth. HOW T then are we to reconcile these two prin- 
ciples ? The general line of the reconciliation cannot be doubtful 
if there be any truth in the conclusions which we have tried to 
establish. Reason clearly pronounces that even what would other- 
wise be the highest good of the individual ought to give way to the 
like good of others. If so, it is clear that individual self-develop- 
ment 2 ought to bow to the claims of the like self-development 
in others ; and from that it follows that the individual must find 
hiSLQ.\Y n highest good in the cultivation of such capacities as can 

1 * The hardest choice which Christian self-denial imposes is the pre- 
ference of the work apparently most socially useful to the work apparently 
most conducive to the agent's own scientific and aesthetic development 1 
(Sidgwick, Ethics of GWH, p. 70). 

2 In future I shall use this word alone, as it seems to me to express all 
that there is of real meaning in * self-realization/ while free from some of 
the objections that have been urged against that term, even as expressing a 
one-sided aspect of Morality. 


b^ subordinated to the supreme- requiremfints^rf social WeU*being, 
The kind and the limits of this self-development and the self- 
sacrifice which this principle will demand of the individual will 
depend on the nature of his vocation. But, in vi^w of the 
prominent place which this question has assumed in recent 
ethical speculation, it will be well to develope a little further 
our attitude towards it. Mr. Bradley has made the alleged 
inconsistency between the claims of self-development or (as 
he sometimes prefers to call it) self-assertion and self-sacrifice 
into a ground for preferring an accusation of hopeless and 
irresolvable internal contradiction or * dualism ' in the deliver- 
ances of the practical Reason. Our moral ideas are therefore 
doomed to go the way of the rest of human knowledge, and 
are pronounced to belong to the region of mere ' Appearance/ 
not of true knowledge the knowledge of ( Reality.' A brief 
examination of this thesis may serve to elucidate what has 
already been said on this subject. 

Here are Mr. Bradley 's words: 

'I am far from suggesting that in morality we are forced 
throughout to make a choice between such incompatible ideals. 
For this is not the case, and, if it were so, life could hardly be 
lived. To a very large extent by taking no thought about his 
individual perfection, and by aiming at that which seems to 
promise no personal advantage, a man secures his private welfare. 
We may, perhaps, even say that in the main there is no collision 
between self-sacrifice and self-assertion, and that on the whole 
neither of these, in the proper sense, exists for morality. But, 
while admitting or asserting to the full the general identity of 
these aspects, I am here insisting on the fact of their partial 
divergence. And that, at least in some respects and with some 
persons, these two ideals seem hostile no sane observer can deny. 

1 In other words we must admit that two great divergent 
forms of moral goodness exist. In order to realize the idea of 
a perfect self a man may have to choose between two partially 
conflicting methods. Morality, in short, may dictate either self- 
sacrifice or self-assertion, and it is important to clear our ideas 
as to the meaning of each. A common mistake is to identify 
the first with the living for others, and the second with living 

Chap, iii, iv] MR. BRADLEY'S VIEW 87 

for oneself. Virtue upon this view is social, either directly or 
indirectly, either visibly or invisibly. The development of the 
individual, that is, unless it reacts to increase the welfare of 
society, can certainly not be moral. This doctrine I am still 
forced to consider as a truth which has been exaggerated and 
perverted into error. There are intellectual and other accom- 
plishments, to which I at least cannot refuse the title of virtue. 
But I cannot assume that, without exception, these must all 
somehow add to what is called social welfare; nor, again, do 
I see how to make a social organism the subject which directly 
possesses them. But, if so, it is impossible for me to admit that 
all virtue is essentially or primarily social. On the contrary, the 
neglect of social good, for the sake of pursuing other ends, may 
not only be moral self-assertion, but again, equally under other 
conditions, it in ay be moral self -sacrifice. We can even say that 
the living " for others," rather than living " for myself," may be 
immoral and selfish.' 

' The ends sought by self-assertion and self-sacrifice are, each 
alike, unattainable. The individual never can in himself become 
an harmonious system. And in the wider ideal to which he 
devotes himself, no matter how thoroughly, he never can find 
complete self-realization. For, even if we take that ideal to be 
perfect and to be somehow completely fulfilled, yet, after all, he 
himself is not totally absorbed in it. If his discordant element 
is for faith swallowed up, yet faith, no less, means that a jarring 
appearance remains. And, in the complete gift and dissipation 
of his personality, he, as such, must vanish ; and, with that, the 
good is, as such, transcended and submerged. This result is but 
the conclusion with which our chapter began. Goodness is an 
appearance, it is phenomenal, and therefore self-contradictory. 
And therefore, as was the case with degrees of truth and reality, 
it shows two forms of one standard which will not wholly 
coincide. In the end/where every discord is brought to harmony, 
every idea is also realized. But there, where nothing can be 
lost, everything, by addition and by rearrangement, more or 
less changes its character. And most emphatically no self- 


assertion nor any self-sacrifice, nor any goodness or morality, has, 
as such, any reality in the Absolute. Goodness is a subordinate 
and, therefore, a self -contradictory aspect of the universe V 

I must not now attempt to discuss as a whole the metaphysical 
position of the most brilliant and original thinker of our time. 
I venture only to make a few remarks exclusively upon the 
ethical side of the difficulty here presented : 

(i) I trust it will not be thought in any way disrespectful 
to Mr. Bradley if I say that the whole of this charge of 
* inconsistency ' in the deliverances of the Practical Reason seems 
to me to turn upon a confusion between the idea of good and 
the idea of right. ML. Pradlfiy.!. 54 doctrine is not merely that 
each of these modes of action is good, but that they are equally 
virtuous and right 2 . If Practical Reason really said that two 
inconsistent courses of action were both right, its * dualism ' 
would no doubt be hopeless enough. But there is no incon- 
sistency in raying that two things are both good, though (where 
you cannot have both) it is right to choose that which is best 
-4fld Practical Reason, as I hold, does not pronounce that 
self-development and self-sacrifice are both right in all circum- 
stances. It pronounces to my mind unequivocally that it is 
always right to choose that which is from the universal point 
of view the greatest of goods : and, though to determine what 
is the greatest of goods constitutes the gravest of practical 
difficulties, Reason is not essentially incapable of this task of 
distinguishing the value of goods, and so of pronouncing which 
of two courses is for a given individual under given circumstances 
the one and only right course of action. 

Therefore, if the question be put nakedly, * Which is to give 
way self-assertion to self-sacrifice or self-sacrifice to self- 
assertion when there is a collision between a smaller good of 
mine and a larger good of my neighbours ? ' I have no hesitation 
in saying that it is I and not Society that should be sacrificed. 
Or, if it be said that this is begging the question whether my 
intellectual cultivation may not be sometimes the greater good 
of the two, I should contend that no self -development of mine can 

1 Appearance and Reality, Ed. ii, pp. 415-420. 

2 Ib., p. 418. 


ever be so great a good as to justify me in pursuing it to the 
total neglect of all social considerations. It has, indeed, to be 
admitted that men's capacities are not equal ; and that unequal 
capacity <J es > in the abstract, constitute unequal value. One 
person may be entitled to more consideration than another ; and 
it may be urged, as a speculative possibility, that there might be 
a person of such exalted capacities that his intellectual well- 
being might be held to justify an exclusive devotion to his own 
improvement; but then I should hold (a) that even then the 
subordination of his own self-development to that of his fellows 
would always be demanded in the interest of his own highest 
Well-being, for the man's capacity for love and social service is 
higher than any intellectual capacity however exalted; and (b) that 
practically there are no such monsters of intellectual superiority. 
Even if it were suggested that the majority of his countrymen 
were so much inferior to him that the claim of their development 
could not practically count in comparison with his own, yet there 
must be at least a minority whose capacities must be such as to 
enter into some sort of comparison with his own. These at 
least must be considered, nor should I for one admit that any 
human beings were so low in the scale of creation as to be of no 
importance at all, though undoubtedly they may be of smaller im- 
portance than others. Practical Reason demands some measure of 
self-sacrifice of the highest towards the lowest. To hold otherwise 
would be to hold that they might lawfully be treated as mere 
opyava instruments of the higher culture of their betters in 
other words, be made their slaves *. Possibly, some of the apostles 
of self-realization might not shrink from the conclusion that 
this is (in principle) the true function of ' the lower classes ' 
in a modern society. At all events there is a very observable 
tendency for a hyper-intellectual ideal in Ethics to associate 
itself with anti-popular or reactionary political views. 

(2) If as a matter of fact Society were so constituted that 

1 This has been practically maintained by Nietzsche, who often says 
straight out what some of our English self-realizers only hint. He carries 
his principle out to its logical consequence, and appears to hold that the true 
ultimate end is the enslavement of the whole world to a single purely 
egoistic 4 Ubermensch.' Any one who is inclined to take Nietzsche seriously 
should read the scathing criticism by Hartmann in Ethische Studien, pp. 34-69. 


the cultivation of the higher intellectual or artistic capacities 
really had no tendency to promote the good of any one but the 
possessor of them, the position would be an awkward one. So 
far as one can answer hypothetical and abstract questions which 
postulate a human nature different from any we know, I should 
be prepared to say, ' In that case, to the extent of the incom- 
patibility between social and private good, the higher faculties 
must remain uncultivated/ On that supposition intellectual 
cultivation must simply be treated as we treat those lower goods 
the enjoyment of which by one is normally inconsistent with 
their enjoyment by another : each must take his just share and 
no more. The share may vary with the individual's capacity, 
but in no case can we rationally allow one man to ba treated as 
an end only, while another is treated merely as a meaua -to-his 
enjoyment. Even on this supposition, there would be no formal 
'dualism' in the moral judgement: the ethical problem would 
still be answered. But we should in that case have to admit 
that some of the highest desires and impulses of our nature 
would be divided against themselves ; that some of the highest 
capacities in the race (and not only in the individual) would 
have to go unrealized ; that some of the highest values in human 
life would be known only, from the point of view of Ethics, as 
values condemned on account of their conflict with yet higher 
values. But, as a matter of fact, the true Well-being of human 
society does riot demand this vast sacrifice of intellectual goods. 
In a number of distinct ways the highest intellectual goods do 
conduce to social Well-being, and so are not incompatible with the 
attainment by the individual of that other and higher good 
which lies in the subordination of self to others. 

It will be unnecessary to dwell at length upon the high 
intellectual qualities which are cultivated and exercised by 
callings useful in the most commonplace sense of the word in 
political life, in administration, in literature, in Physical Science 
and its more advanced applications, in the professions, in the 
mere giving of amusement. But it must not be forgotten that 
in our view the true good of human society does not consist 
either in mere ' edification ' or in the enjoyment of material good 
things. The cultivation of the intellectual and artistic faculties 


is itself part of the social end. Consequently, the man who in 
any way communicates the results of his intellectual activity to 
the world is thereby performing his share .of social service, and 
the subordination of his own ends to those of others involved 
in such communication will effect that reconciliation between 
'self-assertion 1 ' and self-sacrifice which his own moral life 
demands. And fortunately things are so constituted that the 
development of the intellectual and aesthetic nature in the many 
to that moderate pitch which seems alone to be practicable in 
their case imperatively demands a much higher cultivation of 
them in the few. The pleasure and the culture which the 
average man derives from an occasional visit to a picture gallery, 
and from the constant contemplation of good copies or less 
valuable originals on private walls, is only possible if the Artist 
is allowed to devote a laborious lifetime to the study and practice 
of Art. The comparatively uneducated can only find intellectual 
enjoyment if there is a leisured literary class to produce books 
for them to read ; and the leisured literary class that produces 
the books which such men actually read, if they are good of 
their kind, is one which could not itself exist unless there were 
a small class in which a still higher, or at least a less popular 
and more specialized, culture or learning prevailed. The teacher 
must know more than those whom he teaches ; the writer must 
know more of his particular subject than the average reader; 
the man of letters utilizes and absorbs the labours of numerous 
specialists. The maintenance, in short, of a highly cultivated 
class is an absolutely essential condition of healthy cultivated 
life in the nation at large. And the study of History would 
further seem to suggest that the connexion between intellectual 
health on the one hand and social and moral Well-being on the 
other is much closer than is sometimes supposed. The attempt 
to substitute an ideal of pure Morality for an ideal of wider 
human good, the attempt to confine culture within the limit 
wherein it directly subserves personal goodness, is always 
suicidal. The 'dark age* was an age of moral anarchy and 
wickedness. The moral and religious progress of the twelfth 

1 Mr. Bradley more often uses the word * self-assertion * than * self-realiza- 
tion,' but he does not appear to attach importance to the distinction. 


and thirteenth centuries was intimately connected with a great 
intellectual revival. Moral progress is largely dependent on 
intellectual progress, and it is impossible to determine in advance 
what kinds of intellectual advance will react on ethical ideals 
and ethical practice. But nothing can be further from my 
intention than to rest the defence of intellectual pursuits upon 
their moral influence in the narrow sense, i. e. their tendency to 
promote for Society some good other than themselves. The 
different elements in human Well-being can undoubtedly exist 
to some extent apart. Intellectual development is none the less 
a part of the true ideal for society or individual because it is 
not the whole good or the highest good of human life. The 
ideal which would pronounce moral a life of absolutely self- 
centred culture or study is to my mind an irrational and immoral 
one 1 . But the student even of the most ' useless ' branches of 
knowledge can socialize and moralize his life by communicating 
his discoveries or stimulating other students, even though the 
gain to the world may be a purely intellectual gain, and though 
the persons capable of directly and immediately benefiting by 
his work may be counted on the fingers of one hand. It is no 
paradox to say that there is nothing more useful to the world 
than * useless ' knowledge. 

In no case, then, can it be right for a man to disregard social 
Well-being. In many cases a man's social duty may consist, so 
far as is compatible with the ordinary duties of the man and the 
citizen (themselves involving, of course, some measure of self- 
sacrifice), for the most part in the highest intellectual self-develop- 
ment. Even the man of genius must renounce that exceptional 
license to be immoral which the ideal of self-realization sometimes 
seems disposed to concede to him. And generally of course the 
communication to the world of the results of his studies on which 
I have insisted will take off something from the absolutely pos- 
sible maximum of intellectual development something varying 

1 Here for once (which ia very rarely the case) I prefer Mr. Bradley's 
earlier to his later self: 'It is quite clear that if anybody wants to realize 
himself as a perfect man without trying to be a perfect member of his 
country and all his smaller communities, he makes what all sane persons 
would admit to be a #reat mistake ' (Ethical Studies, p. 182). 

Chap, iii, iv] SOCIETY AND CULTURE 93 

from an occasional week spent in the sort of literary jpomposition 
or proof-reading which does not promote intellectual advance- 
ment to the self-sacrifice of the man who deliberately accepts a 
far lower position than he might have achieved as a scholar 
or a thinker to make himself an effective teacher or the 
apostle of some unpopular cause. It is unnecessary to dwell 
on the compensating gain which human interest and practical 
sympathies bring to the student even within the intellectual 
sphere itself. It is perhaps only in the region of the most purely 
physical sciences that there is no such compensation, and in 
the pursuit of these sciences complete detachment from all 
human interests is for the most part avoided by the enormous 
possibilities of conquest over Nature which they bring to the life 
of man, and by the much greater opportunities of really adding 
to the intellectual wealth of the world which are in this region 
open to the most commonplace student than is the case in the 
'humaner' studies. The student of many other subjects may be 
weighed down by the consciousness that the world really wants 
no more books of the kind that he can write ; but the world can 
never know too many facts of physical Science or despise the 
attempts at scientific explanation which lie within the reach of 
every competent investigator. 

Thus, when we turn from the individual to the society, there 
is no ultimate collision between intellectual self-development and 
that positive moral goodness of which self-sacrifice is the negative 
side. For the individual there is no doubt a collision ; but the 
problem which the collision raises is one which Reason is not in- 
competent to solve. Reason recognizes that the direction and the 
degree of each individual's capacities must be, if he wants to be 
moral, limited by the equal value of the like capacity in others. 
And, that being so, it follows that the highest life for the individual 
isjQflJy attainable by that subordination of self to Society which 
constitutes self-sacrifice. The measure and degree of that sacri- 
fice must itself be determined by the requirements of social Well - 
being. Each individual must develope the capacities which will 
realize on the whole the good of greatest intrinsic worth *, having 

1 To avoid repetition I ignore the question of distribution of good which 
has already been dealt with in Book I, chap. viii. 


regard to tfce fact that social good is best realized on the whole 
by some specialization of social function. If there be any truth 
in the theory of Vocation, Reason is not incompetent to determine 
what, under a given set of circumstances, is the vocation of the 
individual. The course dictated by that principle, the particular 
balance between self -development and self-assertion which in each 
case social Well-being demands, is the one and only course which 
for that individual is right. 

So far I have felt bound to deal with Mr. Bradley's indictment 
against the Practical Reason. I have tried to show that Practical 
Reason is never reduced to saying, ' Two inconsistent plans of life 
are good, and I cannot decide which of them is the right one for 
any individual at any one time to adopt/ If that be established, 
that is as far as it is necessary to carry the discussion in any 
ethical interest. Into the wider metaphysical implications of the 
controversy it is not necessary to go at the present moment. 
I need only remark that if the ethical question is not beyond the 
capacities of the Practical Reason, any metaphysical conclusions 
which may be based upon the assumption of its irreconcilable 
dualism must so far be unfounded. If the position which I have 
taken up be accepted, the allegation of self-contradiction in the 
moral consciousness can only come to this -that there are many 
things which would be good if the nature of things had only not 
made their enjoyment incompatible with the enjoyment of still 
better things. Under these cii'cumstances the question may be 
raised, 'Are they really good?' How that question may be 
answered is a matter of no directly ethical importance. The 
only metaphysical consequence which might result from the 
admission that one good is sometimes incompatible with another 
would be the admission that it is possible to conceive of a better 
world than actually exists. This is a position which it is no 
doubt highly unphilosophical to adopt at a period when a ' cheap 
and easy optimism* is regarded in many quarters as almost 
essential to the philosophical character. But it is a position 
with which few will quarrel except professed Philosophers, 
But, once more, any ethical difficulties that there may be about 
this collision between self-realization and self-assertion are 
difficulties created for Ethics by Mr, Bradley's particular system 


of Metaphysic not difficulties created for Metaphysp by Ethics. 
From the ethical point of view there is no difficulty about the 
admission that goods are sometimes inconsistent with one 
another. So long as it is admitted that it is possible to choose 
the greatest good, and that such a choice and this only is 
always right, there is no latent contradiction in our ethical 
judgements : and, if that be admitted, one at least of the counts 
in Mr. Bradley 's indictment against Reason is pronounced bad. 


Since the greater part of this chapter was written Mr. Bradley 5 s 
thesis has received an elaborate development at the hands of 
Professor A. E. Taylor. My reply to Professor Taylor's argument 
is substantially the same as that which I should make to 
Mr. Bradley, with this addition, that in Professor Taylor's case 
it is much more easy than in Mr. Bradley 's to reply to him out 
of his own mouth. Mr. Bradley evidently does believe in the 
* duality ' or internal contradiction of the Practical Reason, and 
he docs not believe in either of his fundamentally opposed ethical 
creeds overmuch. I do not mean, of course, that he is practi- 
cally indifferent to ordinary moral interests, but he is not one of 
those thinkers in whose speculative outlook confidence in the 
dictates of the Practical Reason occupies a paramount position. 
In Professor Taylor, however, the divorce between the man and 
the philosopher is carried much further than with Mr. Bradley. 
Professor Taylor as a man is evidently inclined to an enthusiastic 
belief in the Practical Reason. So long as he confines himself 
to the ethical point of view, he demonstrates with admirable 
effect the unreality of the alleged ethical antinomy. He shows 
nobody more conclusively that neither the ideal of self-realiza- 
tion nor the ideal of absolute and exclusive self-sacrifice is 
Morality as we know it. He is never tired of exhibiting 
the fact that each of these ideals pushed to its logical extreme 
would land us in what every unsophisticated Conscience 
would pronounce to be hopelessly and irredeemably irrational 
and immoral. The true moral ideal includes both elements: 
a truly moral man will choose now one, now the other, whenever 


(which, af ttr all, is the exception rather than the rule) * there is 
a real necessity of choosing before them. If Professor Taylor has 
not done much to analyse the principles upon which the moral 
consciousness chooses between the two, he constantly assumes that 
it is possible to choose, and that there is a right and a wrong 
answer to the question. Some of the alleged contradictions find 
admirable solutions in Professor Taylor's own pages. It is only 
in exceptional cases that he even alleges that there is any real 
difficulty in making a right choice; and the existence of such 
difficult cases is no argument against the inherent capacity of 
the moral consciousness or the validity of its decisions, any 
more than the difficulty of discovering the laws of Nature, or 
the existence of different opinions on historical problems, is an 
argument against the validity of physical law or the existence 
of objective historical truth. Sometimes, indeed, it seems difficult 
to acquit Professor Taylor of failing to see (or perhaps of finding 
it convenient to ignore) the difference between the claim of 
validity for the moral judgement as such and the claim for 
personal infallibility or omniscience on the part of the individual 
Conscience. At all events it is only on the basis of such a con- 
fusion that the existence of difficult questions of Casuistry on 
which no wise or charitable man will care to pronounce with 
much confidence still less to judge severely those who pronounce 
otherwise can be regarded as the smallest argument for an 
inherent and irremovable internal contradiction in the moral 
consciousness itself. 


There is one other view connected with the collision between 
self-development and self-sacrifice about which I should like to 
add a word. It is sometimes assumed as a sort of postulate that 
the good must be good not only for one but for all that there 
can be no real discord between my good and another's. We 
have already adopted many positions which preclude us from 

1 ' There is probably no single virtue of all those recognised by popular 
nomenclature which can be satisfactorily accounted for by either the require- 
ments of full self-development or of social justice considered by themselves ' 
(The Problem of Conduct, p. 218). 

Chap, iii, vi] INCOMPATIBLE GOODS 97 

sharing that assumption. It is one which is hardly intelligible 
except upon the assumption that the good, wilHr the -only*trne 
good. If things like Elfiafii?rp *md-CWfrirft araadmitt&d to. be good, 
the assertion that one man's pleasure or culture cannot be incon- 
sistent with another's is clearly opposed to experience. To say 
that, when the enjoyment of such things by the individual is in- 
consistent with the good of another, it is not really good for the 
former, implies that confusion between the idea of good and the 
idea of right which lies at the root of so much chaos in more than 
one system of Moral Philosophy. If the distinction between good 
and right is to be kept up, it is clear that it is often right for the 
individual to make a sacrifice which is not for his good in all 
respects. Inasmuch as the doing right is for him the highest good, 
he does promote his own highest good by the sacrifice : but to say 
that it is not a sacrifice of good is to deny that the conception of 
good is logically prior to that of right. I fail to see how any clear 
ethical thinking is possible except upon the assumption that many 
things are good which nevertheless the actual conditions of life 
prevent our attaining, and that therefore the only possible object of 
moral effort is to attain the greatest possible good not all conceiv- 
able good. It may no doubt for some extra-ethical reason be held 
that there is a sense in which, when the right course has been 
chosen, we must assume not merely that the adoption of that 
course is the greatest good attainable by the individual in the 
given circumstances, but that all its consequences and concomi- 
tants as well those in spite of which it is chosen as those 
for which it is chosen are wholly good, and involve no evil at 
all to any one. But that is a metaphysical theory with which 
we are not now concerned : and it is so far from being a ne- 
cessary postulate for Ethics that it may rather be pronounced 
to be unethical or anti-ethical. There are many bad things in 
the world besides bad voluntary actions; some of the conse- 
quences of the best actions are consequences which our judge- 
ments of value undoubtedly pronounce to be bad. If any one 
pronounces that they arc nevertheless very good, that is an 
assertion which cannot be made on ethical grounds ; it must 
bo maintained on the basis of some Metaphysic (like that of 
Mr. Bradley) which denies the ultimate validity of our moral 



judgements, not from the point of view of those who believe in 
the validity of our practical judgements. To this subject I hope to 
return in the chapter on * Metaphysic and Morals/ Meanwhile, 
a word must be said about a form of this denial of* all collision 
between my good and another which does rest apparently upon 
purely ethical grounds 1 . 

The assumption that what is good for one man must be good 
for all has found its most explicit expression in that theory of 
the 'common good' which plays so large a part in the ethical 
teaching of Green and his followers. The phrase 'common 
good ' is so loosely used by Green himself that it is sometimes 
doubtful whether to him it always meant anything more 
than ' the general good 2 ' ; but, in other passages and still 
more as used by the disciples who have turned Green's vague 
but stimulating Mysticism into hard arid rigid dogmas, it is 
quite clear that the idea of the common good means some- 
thing which is equally my good and that of every one else. 
Nothing, it is assumed, can be moral which produces any evil 

1 To meet an objection which would, I think, here be irrelevant, I may 
say that I fully recognize that in strictness nothing can be good for one 
person which is not a good absolutely, since the term could always imply 
objectivity ; but, since nothing can (as it seems to me) be good but a state 
of some consciousness, I think it would be pedantic to object to calling 
a good state of a certain person's consciousness ' his good ' or a ' good for him,' 
even where that good involves a greater evil in some other consciousness. 

2 Sidgwick points out how far Green is from consistently maintaining 
this idea of a 'common good. 1 After quoting Green's account of the just 
man as one who ' will not promote his own wellbeing or that of one whom 
he loves and likes ... at the cost of impeding in any way the wellbeing of 
one who is nothing to him but a man, or whom he involuntarily dislikes, 1 he 
remarks, * How, after writing this description of an ideally just man, Green 
could possibly go on to say ( 232), that "the distinction of good for self 
and good for others has never entered into that idea of a true good on 
which moral judgments are founded," I cannot imagine ' (Ethics of Green, 
p. 67). If Green were prepared to stick to the position that there is no 
good but a good will, the contention that one man's good can never be in- 
compatible with that of another might be plausibly (only plausibly) made, 
but the extravagance of the position becomes glaring when (as he often 
does) Green includes Art and Science in his conception of the end in spite 
of his declaration that * the only good which is really common to all who 
may pursue it, is that which consists in the universal will to be good* 
(PwUgomena, 244). 


at all for any living soul 1 . Now I readily admit and of 
course from a practical point of view it is most important to 
insist that it is a characteristic of the higher goods that they 
are capable of being enjoyed by a larger number of persons 
than the lower. In promoting knowledge I am not promoting 
something which is necessarily my gain and another's loss. 
I am exercising my faculties, attaining my good, getting my 
enjoyment (or, as our friends will have it, * realizing' my 
higher self) by the very same acts which are also adding to 
the common intellectual wealth of the world. Knowledge is 
not a thing which, like champagne or plum-pudding, becomes 
less by being shared. My enjoyment of Shakespeare does not 
diminish the amount of Shakespeare which there is to be en- 
joyed by others : rather it has a tendency, so far as my 
conduct has any effect on others, to stimulate, encourage, and 
facilitate in them the reading and appreciation of Shakespeare. 
No less clearly is that the case with a charitable action which 
' blesses him who gives and him who takes.' This very simple 
fact is, I take it, the real basis of the assumption that what 
is good for me to do cannot be bad for another. But I would 
observe that this is not universally the case even with the higher 
goods. A picture can, it is true, be looked at by several people at 
the same time, and by several hundred people one after the other, 
in the course of a day. Practically, a Londoner can get a sight of 
any particular picture in the National Gallery as often as he 
wants to see it. But, if the passion for Art were equally dis- 
tributed throughout the inhabitants of the Metropolis, if every 
Londoner wanted to refresh his soul by gazing on a particular 
Turner once a week, the crowding around that picture would 
become highly inconvenient : the enjoyment of this privilege by 
one certainly would be incompatible with its equal enjoyment 

1 The assumption reminds me of the much-ridiculed doctrine of Mr. Herbert 
Spencer that ' conduct which has any concomitant of pain, or any painful 
consequence, is partially wrong ' (Data of Ethics, p. 261). The extrava- 
gance is not really diminished when a similar assertion is made by those who 
exclude pleasure from their idea of good. Many right acts the preaching 
of really good sermons, for instance often do some moral harm to persons 
to whom they do not happen to appeal. 

H 2 


by others. Even as matters actually stand, it is not the case that 
the accumulation of pictures in Trafalgar Square is a ' common 
good ' to the world in general. What is London's gain is cer- 
tainly Italy's loss, and cannot, except in a very restricted sense, 
be set down as Cornwall's gain. Still more easy is it to show 
that the enjoyment of higher goods by one involves a loss of 
lower goods by others. The Artists and the Connoisseurs eat 
and drink a good deal, and the necessity of supporting them adds 
to the toil and diminishes the profits or enjoyments of many 
thousand working men. Doubtless the encouragement of Art 
is good on the whole for the world, but it is not all gain. More- 
over, it is important to remark that even in the typical case of 
the charitable act which ' blesses him who gives and him who 
takes,' the good of him who gives is not the same as that of him 
who takes. The good Samaritan gets exercise for his Benevo- 
lence, the man fallen among thieves gets the healing of wounds* 
The Surgeon exercises his intellectual faculties and professional 
skill ; his patients benefit by that skill, but what they get is 
quite another good from his. This seems to make the term 
* common good ' unsuitable. The end of Morality is a just dis- 
tribution of goods, not the simultaneous enjoyment by all of one 
and the same good. 

In the case of those lower goods which nevertheless we have 
agreed to call good, it is clear that the enjoyment of a good by one 
is, not exceptionally but normally, incompatible with its enjoy- 
ment by another. Two men cannot eat the same cake. We all 
live at the expense of some one else's labour. No doubt it is 
true that if we look at the whole effect upon Society at the 
whole social system or reciprocal exchange of services which 
Morality enjoins we may say that when two men treat each 
other justly, the one gains as much in one way as he loses 
in another. The ideal of human society is precisely a state of 
things in which each contributes to the good of Society in one 
way as much as he gets from Society in another, and so 
constitutes that * kingdom of ends ' in which we have already 
discovered the sanest and most workable of the Kantian for- 
mulae. And it is naturally an element of this ideal that, as 
far as possible, each should find his own pleasure in something 

Chap, iii, vi] THE COMMON GOOD 101 

which is as good for others as for himself. But this is only an 
ideal, and the conditions of human life permit but a distant 
approximation to it. The harmonizing of one man's interest 
with that qf another must to a very great extent be effected 
simply by the choice of the least evil an evil which really is 
evil to some, though good for the whole. 

I am not quite clear, however, whether in these somewhat 
obvious reflections I am not really expressing what is meant by 
many of those who profess the philosophy of the ' common 
good/ If I am doing so, I can only submit that the phrase 
' common good ' is badly chosen to express their meaning ; and 
as used by some it certainly suggests the ideas which I have com- 
bated. The doctrine of the ' common good/ strictly interpreted, 
really implies Green's doctrine that nothing but the good will is 
good at all (for only so can it soberly be asserted that goods 
never collide with one another) a doctrine in which many of 
those who inherit his phraseology decline to follow him. And 
the position of Green on this matter is really open to the very 
objection which he himself urged with so much force against 
Kant the objection that it leaves the good will without content, 
This position is merely disguised by talking about ' character ' 
or * perfection ' as the end instead of ' the good will.' If nothing 
but the good will is good, there is no reason why one act of will 
should be considered as better than another. And the good will 
is the only good of one man which can never be actually incon- 
sistent with the like good in another ; though after all it may be 
doubted whether one man's good will is actually in itself the 
good of another, and it is quite easy to imagine cases in which 
one man's moral good could only be promoted by the neglect ol 

In some of the writers with whom the ' common good ' theory 
is popular, it is connected with a further metaphysical theory 
the theory that not only the good but the self which is to be 
realized is a common self common to each individual and to l the 
Absolute ' so that in promoting his own true good the individual 
is necessarily promoting the good of every other individual. 
And it is further suggested at times that it is only upon this 
assumption that there can be any logical basis for obedience to 


the moral law. Altruism can only be justified by showing that 
it is really Egoism l . 

I have already touched on the metaphysical aspect of the 
theory, and shall return to it hereafter. But even t if there be 
a sense in which we may treat individual men and women as 
being 'manifestations' or * appearances ' of an all-embracing 
Absolute, Ethics surely has to do with the ' manifestations ' or 
' appearances/ and not with the Unity. Ethics is concerned with 
the relations of these apparently different and mutually exclusive 
'appearances': and it is impossible to give any meaning to the 
simplest ethical conceptions except upon the assumption that 
I and my neighbour are (for ethical purposes) different persons, 
and that my good is distinguishable from his good. I am told 
to promote my neighbour's good because, since I and my neigh- 
bour are really the same being, his good is really my good. But 
I may quite reasonably reply that upon that supposition I have 
only to promote my own good, and need not trouble about my 
neighbour's, for in promoting my own good I must necessarily 
be promoting his also. The theory can be used as a defence of 
Egoism quite as reasonably as against it. Nor does the con- 
sideration that I and my neighbour equally derive our being 
from the same Absolute seem to me to constitute any ground or 
basis for moral obligation which would not exist apart from that 
supposition. If all that is meant by the theory is that when the 

1 I have noticed above Mr. Bradley's use of this doctrine (Vol. I, p. 67), but 
the most explicit formulation of the assumption which I have met with is to be 
found in Bishop d 1 Arcy's Short Study of Ethics (pp. 102, 120 et passim). 'Why,* 
he says (p. 143), ' should a man sacrifice his desires for the sake of a common 
good ? The religious view of morality answers the question at once : Be- 
cause all are one in God, and the common good is the true good of every 
individual.' I should not deny the truth of the last proposition in a 
certain sense, because my moral consciousness does judge that action for 
the general good possesses value, but if my moral consciousness did not 
so judge, Bishop d'Arcy's Metaphysic certainly would not convince me of 
the duty. Would the Bishop (with Schopenhauer) hold that I must also im- 
pute to myself (and to the Absolute) my neighbour's sins ? The last con- 
tention would seem to be quite as reasonable as the former. Dr. d'Arcy, 
being a Bishop, shrinks from pronouncing the absolute identity of every 
individual (good or bad) with his neighbour and with God (and uses the 
vague phrase 'one in God'), but his Logic requires the omission of the 
1 one in. f 

Chap, iii, vii] DISTINCTION OF SELVES 103 

idea of objectivity inherent in the very nature of all moral 
obligation is thought out to its logical consequences, it implies 
Theism, that is a doctrine with which I fully sympathize, and 
on which I hope hereafter to insist. But the idea of moral 
obligation is no deduction from the idea of God, whether con- 
ceived of in a purely theistic or in a more or less pantheistic 
sense. Rather it is one of those immediate data of consciousness 
from which the idea of God may be inferred. If the notion of 
obligation or intrinsic validity or objectivity were not inherent 
in the immediate affirmation of the moral consciousness, no 
demonstration of the metaphysical unity of God and man or self 
and neighbour could possibly put it there. If the practical 
Reason did not recognize an intrinsic value in my neighbour's 
personality, no demonstration as to the common metaphysical 
origin and the actual identity of the two selves could possibly 
convince me of such value. Ethical truths may, and, I believe, 
do, contain metaphysical implications ; but no ethical truth can 
possibly be deduced from or proved by any metaphysical con- 
siderations which are not ethical. Ethical truth can rest upon 
nothing whatever but the actual deliverances of the moral con- 
sciousness. And the moral consciousness certainly knows nothing 
of any metaphysical identity between myself and my neighbour. 
On the contrary it assumes that we are two and not one. If in 
any sense it is to be shown that we are one, that is a position 
which must be established on grounds independent of Ethics. 


There is another conception of the ethical end which has 
many analogies with the ideal of 'self-realization/ Professor 
Simmel, the most brilliant of recent ethical writers, has attempted 
to find an ethical criterion in the idea of a ' maximum of Energy ' 
(Thdtigkeit) 1 . It is not merely pleasure which gives life ita 
value; a life in which there is much pain and much pleasure 
would be positively better than one in which there is only 

1 Einhitung, I, p. 371 sq. He wholly fails to show that in any natural sense 
there is a greater * Quantum von Zwecksetzung ' (II, p. 359), or a ' Willens 
maximum ' in good rather than in bad conduct. 


pleasure. The most desirable kind of life is one in which there 
are many ups and downs, plenty of excitement, many a ' crowded 
hour of glorious life/ a maximum ' swing ' or oscillation between 
the heights of exaltation and the depths of depression l . Now 
in some ways it may be freely admitted that Simmel's ideal is 
a great improvement upon the ideal of ' self-realization/ His 
formula is far less of a mere form ; it is to some extent a concrete 
ideal. And it emphasizes many points which we may recognize 
as important aspects of a high ethical ideal. Unlike the ' self- 
realization ' ideal, it is riot purely self-regarding : it is not only 
for himself that the good man will promote a 'maximum of 
activity/ but also for others ; and there is no confusion between 
one's own good and that of otEers. Simmers ideal man will 
promoteTTKeEin3 of life that has most value on the whole, 
though in particular cases he may judge that an exciting career 
for himself is really so good a thing that he may sacrifice to it 
large masses (as it were) of inferior life. Moreover, the doctrine 
exhibits impressively some of the differences which would exist 
in detail between a hedonistic standard of Ethics resolutely 
applied and one which recognizes other elements of value in 
human life besides pleasure. As against the ideal of ' harmonious 
development/ it insists that what is best in human life as we 
know it is often a state of violent internal discord, of struggle 
and unquiet, rather than of smug and contented spiritual self- 
complacency. And again it is valuable as a reminder that we 
cannotjinj/^^ maintain a sharp and rigid dis- 

tinction between ends andjrneans ; the means are part of the end. 
AlPethical thought becomes, indeed, impossible, unless we do 
recognize a distinction between ends and means: it is because 
the end has value that the means to it are justified. But 
Moralists who have thoroughly grasped this doctrine are beset 
by the temptation to suppose that the character of the means is 
unimportant, and may be ignored in estimating the lightness or 
wrongness of the act. All human activity does, indeed, consist 
in the pursuit of ends, but the end is often in itself far less 
valuable than the pursuit. Human life consists chiefly in the 

1 ' , . . die Schwingungsweite zwischon der Lust und dem Schmerz eines 
Lebens der GrOsse seiner Thfttigkeit proportional ist.' Einleitung, I, p. 388. 

Chap, iii, vii] SIMMEL'S ETHICAL END 105 

doing of things which are means to ends: the end must have 
value, but whether it is worth pursuing or not must depend 
very often upon the character of the activities which will lead 
to that end. From one point of view such activities must be 
looked upon as means ; from another they are part of the end. 

That is obviously the case even from the hedonistic point of 
view, as is seen most conspicuously in the case of games. ' Sport' 
has been well defined as the overcoming of difficulties simply for 
the sake of overcoming them : and from a non-hedonistic point 
of view it must be still more emphatically recognized that the 
activity which is involved in the pursuit of an end is often 
something much higher and more valuable than the end that it 
attains, as that end would be apart from the activity. Man does 
not live by bread alone. His energies are largely absorbed in 
the pursuit of bread, but the bread-winning is often a higher 
and nobler thing than the bread. The true good of human life 
(as we know it) does not consist in the pursuit of some end 
which we first pursue and then enjoy at leisure, but in activities 
which are constantly seeking to satisfy needs which, even if 
satisfied, are only supplanted by fresh needs. Both the enjoy- 
ment and the nobleness of life often lie in the pursuit. When 
people have no unsatisfied needs, they can only give a value to 
life by more or less successful efforts to invent new ones. 
Simmers theory brings out, too, the fact that in detail the 
duty of one man even, it may be said, the concrete ideal which 
it is right for one man to pursue is not the same as that 
of another. It insists on the need for varieties of individual 
development and practical activity. All these elements of truth 
we may freely recognize in SimmeFs formula, but when it is put 
forward as an exclusive and adequate ideal, it is too hopelessly 
vague to be worth serious examination. How can ' amount of 
activity ' be measured ? I can, indeed, compare the value of the 
very dissimilar activities ; I can even by a considerable effort of 
abstraction estimate the amount of pleasure which there is in 
each. But how am I to say whether there is a greater quantity 
of activity in the most exciting kind of historical research or in 
a steeplechase, in Philosophy or in football? So far as quan- 
tities of activity can be estimated, no one probably ever crowded 


more of it into his own life or caused more of it in others than 
Napoleon Buonaparte, but no one who attaches any meaning to 
the idea of Morality can well recognize in Napoleon his 
highest ethical ideal. Simmel's doctrine is one of those which 
spring from the desire to invent new theses, without which it is 
impossible to write sensational works on Moral Philosophy. 
The airing of new ideas is often, no doubt, more exciting, more 
full of activity (of Thatigkeit) than the elucidation, correction, 
and harmonization of older and truer ones. Acts can only be con- 
sidered right or wrong relatively to some end other than the acts 
themselves, however true it may be that the will which wills that 
good is a greater good than the good which it wills. Neither 
'duty for duty's sake' nor 'activity for activity's sake' is a 
rational ethical watchword, unless each is supplemented by the 
doctrine that the end which duty aims at promoting must be 
a good one, and that the ' activity ' which is a good must be 
either part of the end which we pronounce good or a means to 
it. Such formulae as ' activity for the sake of activity ' or ' self- 
realization ' spring from an unwillingness to admit the simple, 
ultimate, and unanalysable character of the idea of good, without 
the admission of which there can be no such thing as Morality. 
The contents of our moral consciousness cannot be translated or 
paraphrased into any language which does not contain the word 
1 good ' or its synonym. 

Both the difficulties which have been raised as a ground for 
accusing Morality of internal contradiction, and some of those 
which lie at the root of Simmel's exaggerated theory of maximum 
activity, are, we have seen reason to believe, met by the due 
recognition of the fact that though duty is incumbent upon 
every one, though the good of society is the end for all, that 
good demands and includes a great variety of individual goods, 
and that not all these goods can either be promoted or enjoyed 
within the compass of a single life. This represents a side of 
ethical truth which is generally expressed by the doctrine that 
different men have different vocations a doctrine which will be 
further examined and developed in the next chapter. 


I HAVE tried to establish the position that acts are virtuous 
in so far as they tend to promote and to distribute justly 
a Well-being which consists in various elements possessing 
very different degrees of intrinsic value. The ideal life would 
be a life into which the different elements of 'good' should 
enter in the degree appropriate to their intrinsic worth; in 
which, roughly speaking, intellectual should be subordinated to 
moral well-being, while lower desires are indulged in such a way 
and to such an extent as are most conducive to the due predomi- 
nance of the higher ; or, more simply, in which every desire, 
every element in consciousness is accorded the place which is 
due to its own intrinsic worth. It might seem to follow that 
the ideal of Morality in its narrower sense, the ideal aim of the 
virtuous will, must be to realize these various * goods ' in propor- 
tion to their relative importance for each and every human 
being. But such an account of human duty takes no account of 
the fact that for Society in general the highest amount of good 
cannot be realized by each individual endeavouring to secure for 
himself and to promote for every other all sorts of good. In no 
one life is the gratification, in any high degree, of all even 
among the better desires possible; while the very attempt to 
gratify all equally makes impossible the attainment of any one 
of the best kinds of life. And, again, from the point of view of 
Society, a certain specialization of function, or what, looked at 
from the economic point of view, is known as division of labour, 
is equally imperative. Not only is it practically impossible for 
the same individual in every case to devote his time and energy 
to the promotion of highest . and higher and lowest goods in 

io8 VOCATION [Book II 

the proportion of their intrinsic worth, but even among goods of 
the particular rank which it is his social function to promote, he 
must devote himself to the promotion of some one particular 
good, if a maximum return, so to speak, is to be, produced. 
The labourer must devote the bulk of his time not merely to 
producing food but to producing a particular kind of food. 
And the conditions of human life are, unfortunately, such that 
a very much larger proportion of the energies of most men 
have to be devoted to producing the lower kind of goods than 
to the production of the higher. 

Moreover, this specialization of the good-producing energies 
of each individual carries with it a further specialization of the 
good which he must himself enjoy. For, though the abstraction 
is useful and legitimate for some purposes, we cannot treat the 
production of good as though it were really a totally distinct 
thing from the enjoyment of good ; as though a man simply 
produced by his social activity one sort of good, while the good 
that he himself enjoys is something wholly distinct and separable 
from it, something produced by other people for him, and given 
to him in exchange for his services by the other members of his 
society, just as the wages received by a husbandman are some- 
thing quite distinct from the corn which he produces. We 
have seen that a large part of the good which can be enjoyed in 
human life consists precisely in these socially directed activities. 
Both moral and intellectual goods are attained by contributing 
in some special way to the good of Society. And, consequently, if 
a man concentrates his energies on the production of some one 
kind of good, that will largely determine the nature of the good 
which he will enjoy, when good life comes to be looked at as the 
individual's share in a social Well-being. The nature of his 
contribution to social good must largely determine, so to speak, 
the nature of his dividend. If a man's social function is to 
plough the fields, that energy of ploughing will not be so much 
energy taken off from the production of higher good and con- 
centrated on the production of lower, but it will determine to a 
large extent the nature of the Well-being that will fall to his 
share ; for it is in and through this social function of ploughing 
that he will attain that highest good which consists in the 


direction of his will towards good, or, more simply, in the 
performance of his duty. And, though in the particular case of 
ploughing, the limitations which it sets to intellectual activity 
are more conspicuous than the scope which it affords, it is none 
the less true that even mechanical occupations involve some 
intellectual activity. The ploughman, even when ploughing, is 
at least doing something that cannot be done by a beast. He 
will attain his highest good in ministering to the bodily wants 
of others; while, though it is obviously desirable that the 
ploughman should enjoy some of those higher goods of life 
which have no special relation to his function, the kind and 
amount of other goods higher and lower alike which will 
fall to his lot must be largely such as are incidental to or com- 
patible with the occupation of- ploughing. As compared with 
the town workman in a factory for instance, the country 
labourer enjoys a more varied and interesting occupation, an 
occupation which brings with it a greater variety of mental 
activities and a greater development of individual initiative, 
the pleasures and the health that come from life in the open air, 
the use of a less crowded house and a garden of his own; he 
cannot enjoy the social and political life, the social interests 
(outside his work) and the exciting amusements which partially 
atone to the townsman for the squalor and discomfort of his 
surroundings. Of course some of these limitations in either case 
are due to defective and improvable social arrangements ; but it 
is clear that in any society different individuals must enjoy, as 
they promote, different kinds of good. Hence a large part of 
human duty consists in acts which are not the duty of all men. 
A large part of human duty consists in the duties of one's 
* Vocation/ 

It is not only in the discharge of his formal social function, the 
function which constitutes (as we say) his business or profession 
or ' state of life/ that there must be some specialization. Even in 
the kinds of good that it is not the business of any recognized 
profession to promote, it is clearly desirable and necessary that 
different men should contribute to social good in different ways. 
In philanthropy, in social service, in the choice between different 
modes of life, there is room for different vocations. An exhaustive 

i io VOCATION [Book II 

treatise on Casuistry would have to deal not merely with the 
duties of different vocations, but also with the question, on what 
principles a man should determine what is his social function, 
whether in the way of formal or official calling, or in the 
direction of his own voluntary energies within the limits 
allowed by universally binding moral obligations and by those 
which are incident to his profession or occupation. Moreover, 
in resolving duty into an obligation to contribute to general 
Well-being, it is not merely the kind but the amount of such 
contribution that is undetermined. Here there is another group 
of questions upon which Moral Philosophy ought to have some- 
thing to say, if it is to aim at a complete analysis of the contents 
of the moral consciousness. It must give some answer to the 
question, ' What are to be the limits of the individual's self- 
sacrifice ? ' And if there are limits which a man is not bound 
to pass, the question may further be raised whether he is at 
liberty, if he pleases, to do more ? If not, must we admit that 
it is possible for a man to do more than his duty ? Can there 
be works of Supererogation ? 


There is yet another reason for devoting some special con- 
sideration to this question of Vocation. In the question ( How 
am I to know and recognize my Vocation ? ' we have a peculiarly 
good illustration of the inadequacy of Intuitionism in any of its 
various forms to formulate the procedure by which reasonable 
men really do determine, and feel that they ought to determine, 
their duty under particular circumstances. This difficulty is well 
illustrated by the treatment of the subject by James Martineau, 
a writer whose Intuitionism takes the form of a theory that a 
man's duty is always that course of action to which he is 
prompted by the highest motive, a motive which is recognized 
as such by the immediate affirmation of Conscience. Let us see 
how such a test would work as applied to this very important 
duty that of choosing one's Vocation rightly. 

Martineau's ethical criterion is thus formulated: * Every 
action is RIGHT which, in presence of a lower principle, follows a 
higher : every action is WRONG which, in presence of a higher 

Chap, iv, ii] THEORY OF MARTINEAU in 

principle, follows a lower V The moral order of precedence 
among the possible principles or 'springs' of action is elabo- 
rately determined by that writer, while immediately after the 
table in which he sums up the results of this enquiry there 
follows a section on the question, ' How far a Life must be 
chosen among these/ Martineau here distinctly faces the 
objection that it rests in great measure on our own action which 
motives shall be presented to the mind and which shall not. 
Unless the higher motive be actually present to the mind, the 
action motived by the lower ' spring ' cannot, according to him, 
be wrong. ' Ought we to content ourselves/ he asks, ' with 
treating the springs of action as our data, with which we have 
nothing to do but to wait till they are flung upon us by circum- 
stance, and then to follow the best that turns up ? ' 2 The 
objection could not be more aptly stated. Martineau meets it 
by admitting that ' if there be at the command of our will, not 
only the selection of the better side of an alternative, but also a 
predetermination of what kind the alternative shall be, the 
range of our duty will undoubtedly be extended to the creation 
of a higher plane of circumstance, in addition to the higher 
preference within it/ But on what principle is a man to make 
his choice between the higher and the lower ' plane of circum- 
stance ' ? How is he to recognize the higher plane ? From 
Martineau's fundamental principle it would seem to follow that 
a man is always bound to choose that ' plane of circumstance ' 
on which he will be likely to find the higher motives streaming 
into his consciousness in the richest abundance and with the 
greatest force. Martineau himself raises the question : * If com- 
passion is always of higher obligation than the loce of gain or 
family affection, how can a man ever be justified in quitting his 
charities for his business or his home ? ' But to this question he 
has supplied no adequate answer. The only way in which he 
strives to beat down the difficulty which he has himself so 
forcibly raised is by the contention that ' the limits . . . within 
which the higher moral altitudes can be secured by voluntary 
command of favouring circumstances are extremely narrow/ 

1 Types of Ethical Theory, 3rd ed., II, p. 270. 

2 Ib., p. 267, 


This view he supports by insisting upon the undoubted fact that 
a man cannot entirely alter his nature by artificial change of 
environment, upon the moral advantage of the ' various clashing 
of the involuntary and the voluntary/ upon the moral ill effects 
of setting aside ' relations human and divine ' by the choice of 
an apparently higher walk of life. Now, in the first place, I 
remark that, in so far as a man deliberately turns a deaf ear to 
the solicitation of a higher motive from regard to the considera- 
tions insisted upon by Martineau, he is deserting the fundamental 
principle of the system. In urging a man to repress his benevo- 
lent aspirations for fear of the moral effects (social and personal) 
of the neglect of family relations and the like, Martineau is 
distinctly transferring the object of moral discrimination from 
the motives to the consequences of the alternative courses of 
action. He is deserting the Highest-motive criterion for the 
principle (to use terms invented by Sidgwick) of individualistic 
or of universaliatic Perfectionism, He bids the seeker after 
moral truth in certain particular cases act upon the lower 
in preference to the higher motive ; l and yet no adequate rules 
are given for the discrimination of these exceptional cases. If 
in one particular instance a man is permitted to disobey 
Martineau's fundamental canon from fear of the moral ill 
consequences which might subsequently ensue, how can he obey 
it in any case in which he foreseen that the net moral results of 
acting on the higher motive will be less satisfactory than those 
which result from choosing the lower motive ? The method of 
Ethics to which such a principle would lead would be a very 
different one from the method of introspection into motives. 

But we must return to Martineau's contention ' that the limits 
within which the higher moral altitudes can be secured by a 
voluntary command of favouring circumstances are extremely 
narrow ' Here I venture very decidedly to join issue. It is 
all very well to point to the moral failure of monastic systems, 
and the danger of neglecting natural ' relations, human and 

1 Types, II, p. 270. It might, indeed, be pleaded that the desire of doing 
right as such is higher than the benevolent desire ; but Martineau does not 
admit the existence of a desire to do the light thing in general, as distinct 
from an impulse to satisfy some particular good desire. 

Chap, iv, ii] CHOICE OF PROFESSION 113 

divine '. But what relations does Martineau mean 1 It may be 
true that a man cannot desert ' his business or his home for his 
charities ' without neglecting ' relations human and divine/ 
when once he has got a business or a home. But it rested with 
himself to create or not to create the business or the home in 
the first instance. And on what principles is he to decide 
whether to create them or not ? Practically, Martineau's advice 
to any one in doubt as to the choice of an employment or 
profession seems to be, ' Don't choose one at all/ ' Let him 
accept his lot/ he tells us, ' and work its resources with willing 
conscience, and he will emerge with no half-formed and crippled 
character V This might be good advice to one born heir to an 
estate or a great business; it would be intelligible advice 
though there are cases in which its morality would be question- 
able to a son brought up by an arbitrary father for a particular 
profession ; but to the man who is really free to choose between 
half a dozen different ' lots/ and in anxious doubt which of them 
to adopt, the precept ' Accept your lot ' will seem but a mocking 
echo of the problem that distracts him. If 'one's lot' means 
one's actual profession, the advice is meaningless to the boy or 
the man who has not entered upon any ; if ' one's lot ' means the 
lot to which one is called, the precise difficulty lies in knowing 
what that lot is. The maxim ' Perform the duties of your 
vocation ' is of no use to a man grappling with the tremendous 
problem to many a man the most difficult practical problem 
which he ever has to face of finding out what his true voca- 
tion is. 

The duty of choosing a profession has been well called I 
think by Sir John Seeley the most important of all duties, and 
the same writer very reasonably complains of the almost total 
neglect of this department of Ethics by Moralists. And the 
neglect is not the least conspicuous in the writers who most 
tend to limit the whole duty of man to the ' duties of one's 
station.' ' My Station and its Duties ' is the title of the only 
chapter of Ethical Studies in which Mr. Bradley faces the 
question of the moral criterion. ' My station and duties ' is 
the formula by which he seeks to answer that question ; and yet 

1 Types, II, p. 270. 



in the whole chapter there is not a word as to the principles 
upon which a man's station must be chosen except what is 
contained in the lines : 

One place performs like any other place 
The proper service every place on earth 
Was framed to furnish man with 1 . 

It should be observed that this question of choosing a pro- 
fession is precisely one to which the ordinary objections to the 
systematic treatment of questions of Casuistry do not apply at 
all. Against such a treatment it may plausibly be urged in 
ordinary cases that the decision, when the difficulty actually 
arises, has to be taken without prolonged and self-conscious 
deliberation ; that to deliberate in the face of an apparent duty 
generally means to seek an excuse for evading it ; that there is 
something morally unwholesome in elaborate introspection and 
self-analysis, and still more in the anticipation of abnormal moral 
perplexities, or even in dwelling upon them when they arise ; 
and, finally, that the details of Morality as opposed to its general 
principles do not admit of scientific adjustment : * the particulars 
are matters of immediate perception,' as Aristotle puts it 2 . But 
the choice of a profession is precisely a question which from the 
nature of the case mutt be deliberated on, and about which, in 
numerous instances, conscientious men do deliberate long and 
anxiously. Here, if anywhere, it would appear reasonable to 
expect that a system of Moral Philosophy might have some 
guidance to offer to anxious seekers after Right. Even if the 
scientific discussion of such a subject were of little direct use to 
the doubting Conscience of the individual (as no doubt must 
generally be the case with theoretical determinations of practical 
questions), it might at least be expected to be of some value in 
determining the advice which should be given to others upon 
a subject upon which more than on any other moral question 
men are wont at times to seek for counsel and advice. The 
Moral Philosopher as such is no more capable of answering such 
a question than any one else ; but he ought surely to be able to 
point out the considerations upon which its solution turns, and 
so to state the question in a manner in which it admits of an 

1 Ethical Studies, p. 183. 2 aifftirjra yap ra Kaff f*aora. 

Chap, iv, ii] THE HIGHEST MOTIVE TEST 115 

answer. I need hardly say that in the present chapter I make 
no pretension to contribute to the discussion of the subject any- 
thing which would be likely to be of much value either to 
enquirer QJ: adviser in such cases. I merely wish to point out 
that the question of choosing a profession is a peculiarly good 
test of any philosophical criterion of Morality, and to show that 
Martineau's criterion is one which could not practically be 
applied to its determination, or at least that the results of its 
adoption would be such as would not commend themselves 
to the practical moral judgement of thoughtful and reasonable 

It will be well perhaps, at this stage of my argument, to call 
attention to the psychological grounds upon which Martineau 
bases what I must respectfully call his evasion of this problem : 

' The limits, however, within which the higher moral altitudes 
can be secured by voluntary command of favouring circumstance 
are extremely narrow. Go where we may, we carry the most 
considerable portion of our environment with us in our own 
constitution ; from whose propensioiis, passions, affections, it is 
a vain attempt to fly. The attempt to wither them up and 
suppress them by contradiction has ever been disastrous : they 
can be counteracted and disarmed and taught obedience only by 

Ereoccupation of mind and heart in other directions. Nothing 
ut the enthusiasm of a new affection can silence the clamours of 
one already there V 

Martineau's treatment of the whole subject seems to have been 
warped by the assumption that the only way in which a man 
can attempt to raise himself to ' the higher moral altitudes by 
the voluntary command of favouring circumstance ' is by ' going 
out of the world ' in the monastic sense. He insists with much 
force upon the folly of attempting to suppress the lower ' pro- 
pensions, passions, and affections' by one tremendous sacrifice 
of the external goods or surroundings which seem most obviously 
to call them into activity. It is quite true that * it is a vain 
attempt to fly' from one's natural ' propensions, passions, and 
affections/ by change of external environment ; but it is entirely 
possible to give a wholly new direction to them by such a change. 

> Types, IT, p. 268. 
I 2 

ii6 VOCATION [Book II 

It is precisely because ' the affections can be counteracted and 
disarmed and taught obedience only by preoccupation of mind 
and heart in other directions ' that the influence of environment 
upon character is of such decisive importance. It is jjist because 
' nothing but the enthusiasm of a new affection can silence the 
clamours of one already there, 1 and because some occupations 
are so much more favourable than others to the growth of ' new 
affections ' of the right kind, that a man's character is so largely 
determined by himself determined by himself, but determined 
in ordinary cases once for all by the choice of his walk in life. 

Without denying to every honourable and worthy calling 
either its characteristic virtues or its characteristic vices, it is 
surely undeniable that some professions are as a rule more 
favourable to the development of character than others. It is 
not to the purpose to allege that all callings are compatible with 
the highest Morality. Exceptional men may lead exceptional 
lives in any walk of life; the very obstacles to Virtue which 
some careers present will become so many occasions for moral 
achievement to those who are capable of triumphing over them. 
But we are not dealing with exceptional men, but with ordinary 
men, though (since ex hypothesi they are desirous of regulating 
their choice on the highest principles) with ordinary good men. 
And the characters of ordinary men are enormously moulded 
by their environment by the nature of their work, by the 
people with whom it will bring them into contact, and by the 
nature of that contact. To such men when hesitating as to the 
choice of a profession such alternatives as these are constantly 
presenting themselves. A man hesitates between the profession 
of a physician and that of an officer, more or less clearly fore- 
seeing that if he becomes an officer there lies before him (in time 
of peace) a life of idleness just disguised and sweetened by a 
moderate quantity of routine work, a life of comfort and pleasure, 
if not of luxury and self-indulgence, to say nothing of the actual 
temptations naturally associated with such a life. Against this 
there may seem to him (rightly or wrongly) little to be set except 
the rare opportunities of heroism and patriotic service which may 
from time to time present themselves in war. As a doctor there 
lies before him a life of hard work and great usefulness a life in 


which there will be daily and hourly calls for the exercise of sym- 
pathy, self-denial, and devotion. Or again, take the case of a man 
hesitating between the life of a parish clergyman and some 
commercial occupation. Of course the temptations of the 
highest callings the degradation of the man who cannot in some 
measure rise to the moral level which they demand are great in 
proportion to the opportunities which they offer. But it will 
hardly be denied that most men who have adopted the profession 
of a parochial clergyman from not wholly unworthy motives 
sometimes even that exception might be omitted are made 
better by the demand which such work incessantly creates for 
sympathy, for self -judgement, for moral effort, for charity in the 
highest sense of the word. How constantly does one find the 
highest qualities developed by a few years of serious clerical 
work among the poor in a man who certainly showed no signs 
of their possession as an undergraduate l ? Can it be doubted that 
those virtues might very probably have remained, to say the 
least of it, equally dormant and unobtrusive had he gone into 
business ? It is not, however, necessary for my argument to 
show that the actual moral performance of one profession is on 
an average superior to that of another, though I should myself 
have little doubt of the fact. The question is, whether some pro- 
fessions do or do not make greater and more frequent demands than 
others upon the higher ' springs of action ' and so create a ' higher 
plane of circumstance/ Here I should have thought there could 
not be room for the smallest doubt. Professions which bring 
a man into contact with human suffering must surely more 
frequently suggest benevolent impulses than those whose work 
is done in the study or the office, whatever be the response 
which is actually made to such higher suggestions. Professions 
which offer opportunies for work not wholly dictated by personal 
interest call for these higher motives more frequently than work 

1 Of course, to other men the opposite choice might be morally the more 
successful. I am assuming the case of the man who possesses in some measure 
the particular capacities which clerical work might call out. It must be 
remembered that I am myself contending that the character of the f springs 
of action ' to which the work appeals is not the right principle on which to 
base the choice of a profession. 


in which there is comparatively little room for any honesty 
except the narrow honesty which is the best policy. Professions 
which necessarily involve an attitude of antagonism to moral 
evil must clearly be more likely to excite those sentiments of 
compassion and reverence which Martineau places at the head 
of his table of ' springs of action ' than professions in which the 
existence of evil is either kept out of sight or has for the most 
part to be accepted as a datum instead of being grappled with. 
If that be so, I cannot see how, on his principle, a man to whom 
the profession which will secure the presence of these higher 
motives has once suggested itself, could ever be justified in adopt- 
ing one which will place him on a lower ' plane of circumstance. 1 
Whether he possesses the capacity or taste for the work, whether 
it is probable that he will succeed in making as frequent response 
to these higher springs as he might make to the good but inferior 
springs of action suggested by work of a less morally exacting 
kind, whether he will be more useful to Society by adopting the 
calling which makes the greater demand upon the higher springs 
all these are, as it seems to me, utilitarian considerations with 
which the Intuitionist of the 'highest motive' school cannot 
logically concern himself. Whether the moral value of the 
motives immediately prompting a man to choose the one calling 
or the other be considered, or whether we have recourse to 
Martineau's supplementary rule of choosing the ' higher plane of 
circumstance,' nothing could, as it seems to me, justify a man in 
choosing what we may for the wake of convenience call the lower 
profession in preference to the higher, but the fact that the 
desire of adopting the latter had never occurred to him, or that 
he had never had one moment's experience of those higher 
desires which would be gratified by the adoption of the higher 
profession. Exactly the same difficulties would arise if we 
assigned a higher value than Dr. Martineau to the intellectual 
and aesthetic impulses, and attempted to base the choice of a 
profession upon the extent to which it would promote the man's 
own self -development. 

It must be remembered that the collision of motives respec- 
tively impelling a man to the choice of two alternative walks of 
life is not commonly limited to the collision between one higher 


motive and one good but somewhat lower motive. Martineau, 
indeed, shows a disposition to deny the possibility of action 
impelled by a mixture of motives ; but whatever be the case 
with actions actually performed, there can surely be no doubt 
that, so long as alternative courses are still in contemplation, it 
seldom happens that the man is impelled to the one or other 
course by one motive alone. This is eminently the case with 
the choice of a profession. Sometimes, indeed, some of the 
lowest inducements will persist in arraying themselves on the 
side of the highest of all. What more common in religious 
men than a coincidence between the * love of power or ambition ' 
(placed seventh on Dr. Martineau's list), or even ' love of gain/ 
and the promptings of ' compassion ' or ' reverence ' ? So again 
in the familiar struggle between intellectual and philanthropic 
impulses, the lowest desires of all will commonly take the side 
of the former. ' Love of ease and sensual pleasure ' will ally 
itself with ' love of culture ' in deterring a man from those 
active professions to which he is prompted by 'generosity 5 and 
' compassion ' in the present, and in which those motives of 
action are likely to be most frequently called into activity in 
the future. It must be remembered that where a higher desire 
and the wish to provide for a future supply of such desires 
point one way, and the lower desires the other, the higher 
desire is by no means always a predominant, habitual, or over- 
mastering desire. Where that is the case, it may be a man's 
duty to adopt it irrespectively of inclination. The thought of 
the higher vocation may, indeed, be a mere transient, inter- 
mittent aspiration. The man may shrink from the higher 
vocation (though willing to accept it if proved to be his duty) 
with an aversion in which dislike of its hardships, felt incapacity 
for its duties, and the overmastering attraction of some less 
exalted though not unworthy passion or ambition will mingle 
almost inextricably. Yet, if it be once admitted that the moral 
value of the impelling motives must determine the choice, it 
must follow that no man attracted to the army by 'love of 
power or ambition ' could ever conscientiously devote himself to 
that profession if a ' love of culture ' had once suggested to him 
the thought of being an artist ; that no man who had ever felt 

120 VOCATION [Book II 

sincere compassion for the sorrows of the poor, and recognized 
the supreme nobleness of philanthropic work, could ever devote 
himself conscientiously to the cause of Science or learning ; that 
no woman who had ever aspired after the usefulness of a hospital 
nurse or a schoolmistress could ever conscientiously consent to 
marry a squire or a man of business l . 

In fact, since the profession to which a man is most strongly 
attracted commonly presents itself to him in an agreeable light 
i. e. as likely to satisfy some of his lower desires as well as one 
or more of the higher ones it would scarcely be an exaggera- 
tion to say that on Martineau's principles it will generally be a 
man's duty, when hesitating between two or more professions, to 
choose that which he dislikes most 2 . Such a preposterous con- 
clusion would, of course, have been rejected by Martineau as 
emphatically as it would by any other sensible man. Yet from 
the perplexities and paradoxes which we have been considering 
there seems to be no way of escape so long as we confine 
ourselves to a purely subjective criterion, and refuse to consider 
the consequences of our action upon social Well-being. 

It is true, indeed, that Martineau might point to not a few 
passages of his book where the calculation of consequences is 
admitted to have a place in morals ; but the relation of the 

1 The following words from a letter of Ruskin may illustrate the situation 
I am contemplating : ' I am . . . tormented between the longing for rest and 
lovely life and the sense of this terrific call of human crime for resistance 
and human misery for help ' (Collingwood, Life and Work of John Buskin, 
1893, II, p. 7). And yet it may be safely asserted that, even if we measured 
its value solely by its effects upon the condition of the poor, Ruskin's 
actual career accomplished far more than he would have done had he 
turned his back upon Literature and Art and devoted his life to some 
directly philanthropic cause : but such indirect social effects could not of 
course be expected in all cases. 

2 It is difficult to bring within Martineau's table some of the motives 
which frequently have most weight in disposing a man to one or other 
profession. Perhaps the strongest likings or dislikings for particular 
callings commonly rest upon a love of society or of society of a particular 
kind, or upon dislike of a particular kind of society. (By society I mean all 
kinds of intercourse with one's fellow men.) It is hard to explain such 
likings or dislikings by any of Martineau's ' springs,' whether taken singly 
or in combination. The only love of pleasure which he recognizes is ' love 
of sensual pleasure.' 

Chap, iv, iii] THE UTILITARIAN TEST iai 

' canon of consequences ' to the canon of motives is nowhere 
adequately explained. In one passage 1 , indeed, it is admitted 
that such a ' computation is already more or less involved in the 
preference pf this or that spring of action ; for, in proportion as 
the springs of action are self-conscious, they contemplate their 
own effects, and judgement upon them is included in our judge- 
ment of the disposition.' If this admission be pressed, it seems 
to me to amount to the practical adoption of a consequential or 
teleological criterion of the morality of at least all deliberate 
actions. All action must affect some one, and if a man is 
reflecting upon the course of conduct which it is right for him 
to pursue, it must surely occur to him that the consequences of 
one course of action will be more socially beneficial than those 
of another. How, then, can he fail to be moved to the adoption 
of that alternative by * Compassion ' ? And Compassion 2 in the 
table before us takes precedence of all other springs of action 
except * reverence/ Except, therefore, in so far as its dictates 
may be modified by those of reverence, compassion seems to be 
practically erected into the ethical criterion. This, however, is 
not explicitly admitted by the f ramer of that table, and we are 
obliged to assume that comparison of motives is meant to be his 
working criterion. 


It may be urged that, however unsatisfactory Martineau's 
criterion for the determination of cases of Conscience such as 
these may be, no more satisfactory guidance is to be obtained 
from any other. If we adopt tendency to promote social good 
(however understood) as our test, is not the difficulty, it may be 
asked, quite as great ? If a man's duty is to adopt the course of 
conduct which produces the greatest amount of good on the 
whole, how is it possible to set limits to the self-denial, the 
asceticism, which such a principle of conduct seems to demand ? 
How is it possible, except by a cynical or pessimistic disbelief in 
the usefulness of all social or philanthropic effort, to justify the 

1 Types, II, p. 255. 

2 This is not a suitable word to denote the impulse to promote all kinds of 
social good, but Martineau's list of motives supplies no other. 


adoption of a less useful in preference to an intrinsically more 
useful or laborious profession the expenditure of time upon 
abstract thought or study which might be spent in teaching the 
ignorant and brightening the lives of the wretched, the expendi- 
ture of money upon the conventional comforts of a middle-class 
home (to say nothing of the luxuries of ' the rich ') when it 
might be spent upon hospitals and young men's clubs ? 

I do not pretend to offer a complete solution of this most 
difficult problem of practical Morality. I only wish to point out 
that, on the theory which makes universal Well-being the 
supreme end, it is not incapable of a solution which may com- 
mend itself to ' common sense ' without in any way repressing 
the highest moral aspirations. I propose to notice a few of the 
more prominent of the considerations which must be taken into 
account in a solution of this question, whether in its application 
to the choice of a career or the choice of a mode of life in so far 
as such a choice remains open to those who have already adopted 
some recognized profession. However obvious they may seem 
(as most of them certainly are), an attempt to enumerate them 
will be the best way of illustrating the practical adaptability to 
such cases of our method of ideal Utilitarianism. 

(i) In the first place, there are those considerations of what I 
have called ' moral prudence/ on which Dr. Martineau has as 
I venture to think quite inconsistently with his main principle 
sufficiently insisted. Before embarking under the influence of 
some higher motive upon a course of action not required by 
strict duty, which will require for its maintenance the continued 
presence of such higher motives, a man should have a reasonable 
prospect that the necessary inspiration will hereafter be forth- 
coming ; otherwise the adoption of the higher course of life will 
lead to a moral fall rather than to a moral advance. In such 
cases the surrender to the ' higher motive ' will not be conducive 
to the man's own moral Well-being on the whole, and therefore 
not conducive to the good of Society. Of course this principle 
will not hold where for some reason or other the course of action 
to which man is called is one of plain duty. But if the true 
canon of duty be, 'Act always on the highest motive/ it is 
difficult to see how any aspiration after some more heroic or 


more saintly walk could ever be rightly repressed from a fear of 
its possible moral consequences. In that case the answer to 
such fears would be, ' Better do right now, even if you will not 
be able to Iwe up to the level of your present enthusiasm here- 
after/ If, on the other hand, it be the duty of the individual 
to realize the highest attainable moral and other good for 
himself and others, he will recognize that, though the career of 
a philanthropist may be higher than that (say) of an honest 
lawyer, he will himself attain a higher moral level as a lawyer 
than by the more imperfect fulfilment of a higher ideal. 

(2) These considerations naturally lead us to the observation 
that certain social functions require for their adequate fulfilment 
that they should be done in a certain spirit. Such functions 
demand the possession of certain qualities of mincl or heart or 
character which cannot be summoned up at the command of the 
will, and cannot be satisfactorily performed merely as a matter 
of duty. Common sense agrees with Roman Catholic Moral 
Theology in recognizing that it would be positively wrong for 
any one to enter upon certain careers which make great demands 
upon the moral nature, merely from a strong sense of duty, 
when they have no ' internal vocation ' for them. The principle, 
no doubt, requires to be extended to many careers beyond those 
afforded by the priesthood and the religious orders, or the 
modern equivalents of such orders ; and the true ultimate ground 
of such a distinction must, from our point of view, be found in 
the social advantages (moral and hedonistic) which flow from its 
observance, and the social disadvantages which would be entailed 
by its neglect. The average sister of mercy is, no doubt, a more 
valuable member of Society than a Belgravian lady who is 
somewhat above the average ; but a sister of mercy with no 
natural love or instinct for her work, with no natural love for 
the poor or the sick or the young to whom she ministered, 
would be far less useful to Society than the Belgravian lady who 
performs respectably the recognized duties of her station, even 
though she may devote what must in the abstract be considered 
a somewhat excessive amount of time to domestic trivialities 
and social dissipation. 

(3) While the principle just laid down applies pre-eminently 

124 VOCATION [Book II 

to certain special callings such as those of the artist, the scholar, 
the man of letters, the clergyman, the teacher it applies in 
a certain measure to all work which is capable of being liked at 
all, or for which any special aptitude is possible. It is for the 
general good that every man should do the work for which he is 
most fitted ; and, as a general rule, a natural liking for the work 
or kind of life adopted is one of the most important qualifi- 
cations for it. There are, of course, obvious limitations to the 
principle thus laid down. The highest tasks are necessarily 
repulsive to the lower part of a man's nature. A due distinction 
must be drawn between the kind of dislike which there is 
a reasonable prospect of overcoming and the dislike which is 
insurmountable ; and, again, between the dislike which interferes 
with the due performance of the work and the dislike which 
does not interfere with it. A surgeon who could not overcome 
a physical squeainishness at the sight of blood would be more 
useful to Society as a billiard-marker. On the other hand, 
absolute callousness to human suffering, though it might increase 
his love of his profession, would scarcely, I presume, be a qualifi- 
cation for its duties. 

(4) Regard must be paid not only to the effects of the indi- 
vidual's conduct, but to the effect of the general adoption of 
a like course of conduct on the part of others. Thus it would 
not be socially desirable to encourage all high-minded men to 
forsake the careers which seem from some points of view to 
stand upon the lowest moral level. A life of money-making 
(abstracted from the use which is to be made of the money 
when accumulated) may from some points of view seem one to 
which nobody could lawfully devote himself who had ever felt 
an aspiration after some higher kind of work ; for, however 
necessary to society may be the work of merchants and stock- 
brokers, there would always (under existing conditions) be 
forthcoming a sufficient supply of duly qualified persons who 
would be attracted into these professions from purely mercenary 
motives. Against this, however, must be set the demoralization 
which would result to such classes or professions, and the conse- 
quent injury to Society, if all men of high character were led to 
avoid them. It may be questioned whether, upon this principle, 

Chap, iv, iii] PERSONAL EXPENDITURE 125 

it may not sometimes be a positive duty on the part of some 
good people to continue in, if not to adopt, professions which 
may be in various degrees unfavourable to the improvement of 
their own personal character, or which at least involve much 
that is disagreeable to what we may call their moral taste, 
provided that they minister to legitimate social needs. The 
most extreme ill effects of the adoption of a contrary prin- 
ciple were experienced in the Middle Ages. The ' religious ' life 
being assumed to be the highest of all careers, every man or 
woman anxious about his or her soul was driven into a religious 
house, unless, indeed, they were wealthy enough to found one. 
The consequence was an appalling relaxation of the standard of 
ordinary < secular ' morality a complete de-spiritual ization of 
all ' secular ' life, including that of the secular priest. Even the 
work of the pastor had to be abandoned to worldly men, 
because it was not disagreeable enough to satisfy the religious 
man's hankering after self-mortification. 

(5) Similar considerations are applicable to the innumerable 
difficulties which beset the Conscience of every man possessed 
with something of the ' enthusiasm of humanity ' in the matter 
of personal expenditure, conventional luxury, and so on. In the 
first place, he will apply the principle of ' moral prudence ' to 
the effects of his conduct upon himself and his capacity for 
work. He will make recreation subordinate to work, social 
pleasures to social usefulness, and so on. There is, however, 
room for as many different vocations, so to speak, in respect of 
the use that may be made of leisure hours as there is in the 
choice of a life-work : and some of them are higher than others. 
It is no doubt a morally higher thing to spend one's evenings 
in teaching a night school than to spend them in amusement or 
light reading. But if a man to whom some higher motive suggests 
the idea of taking up with the former occupation feels that the 
work would be excessively distasteful, and that as a consequence 
he would be less capable of efficiently discharging his duties in 
the day, and probably become irritable, discontented, and dys- 
peptic, he will do much better to play whist of an evening 
instead, even in the interests of his own moral Well-being. Still 
more evidently will such a course be recommended when we 

126 VOCATION [Book II 

extend our view first to the direct effects of the two alternatives 
on the happiness of others, and then to the effects which would 
follow an extensive imitation of a conscientious but uncheerful 
philanthropy. On Dr. Martineau's principle, it is difficult to see 
how it is possible to justify a rich man under any circumstances 
living the life of a country gentleman, even as such a life might 
be lived under the inspiration of a ' social Conscience ' far above 
the average, when once it has been suggested to him that he 
might spend his fortune on some great work of social usefulness. 
He would certainly be prompted to the last course by 'com- 
passion' and deterred from it (among however many other 
and better motives) by ' love of ease and sensual pleasure.' On 
the other hand, when once the appeal is made to social Well- 
being, a number of other important considerations suggest 
themselves which may well justify a man who does not feel 
strongly moved to make such a sacrifice in accepting the more 
agreeable alternative. He will reflect that the habits of a class 
cannot be suddenly changed, but that they may be gradually 
modified. He will remember that certain kinds of work can 
only be done in connexion with certain social positions : a hard- 
working professional man may do much more work than a 
resident squire, but he cannot do precisely the same work that 
a good squire may do. He might therefore do more good by 
setting an example of liberality, care for dependents, devotion to 
public duties, and moderation in amusement and personal 
expenditure, than by letting his country house and giving the 
proceeds to public works or well-administered charities. He 
will reflect that some forms of luxury have good social effects, 
such as the encouragement of art and superior workmanship, 
which ultimately benefit the community at large. He may feel 
that it is better to indulge to some extent in forms of luxury 
demanded by the customs of his class, but difficult to reconcile 
with abstract ideas of Justice, such as good dinners, expensive 
wines, a large house and numerous servants, rather than 
abandon great opportunities of social or political influence and 

It is not my intention here to discuss from a practical point 
of view the extent to which this principle should be carried. It 

Chap, iv, iii] STANDARDS OF COMFORT 127 

is probable that, while the existence of different standards of 
class expenditure and of considerable inequalities in the 
expenditure of individuals is socially beneficial, a vast amount 
of the coaventional expenditure of the rich and well-to-do 
classes, in view of the surrounding sordid misery, is wholly 
unjustifiable ; and that a still larger amount is only provisionally 
and relatively justifiable, because under existing conditions the 
non-conformity with established usage would on the whole, for 
such and such persons and in such and such circumstances, be the 
greater of two evils. But it is clear that very different standards 
of expenditure must be admitted, unless we are to pronounce 
many occupations or professions absolutely barred to persons 
whose social Conscience has once been aroused. If a man cannot 
justify to his Conscience the provision of champagne for his 
guests, it is clear that diplomacy is an impossible profession for 
him. If he cannot make up his mind to mess and contribute to 
regimental amusements as other officers do, he cannot enter the 
army; and in many other positions in life it is impossible to 
escape the choice between total isolation with much loss not 
only of pleasure but of influence and professional effectiveness 
and acquiescence in some kinds of expenditure which we may 
feel to involve a very unjust and socially inexpedient distribu- 
tion of external goods. No doubt these 'necessities of one's 
position ' should be duly weighed before the position which 
necessitates them is accepted. In many cases they might con- 
stitute a good reason for refusing to accept that position, and, 
when it is accepted, the duty remains of reducing them within 
reasonable limits; but I do not believe that it would be for 
the general good, and therefore I do not believe that the 
moral consciousness allows us to lay it down, that all positions 
involving a high standard of personal expenditure should be 
closed to any one whose eyes had once been opened to the 
responsibilities of wealth. 

I need hardly add that the other side of the matter the 
enormous need for men who will adopt exceptional modes of 
life, and devote themselves to public or philanthropic work in 
ways which do demand exceptional self-sacrifice is an equally 
important one, and that for men who feel that need strongly 


and their capacity for meeting it, the exceptional sacrifice may 
become the most imperative of duties. On this side of the 
matter I shall have more to say hereafter. 

(6) Another consideration which must be borne, in mind is 
that, if Well-being or Good in general be the supreme end, my 
good is a part of that end: and my happiness is a part of my 
good, though not the whole of it. It ought not, therefore, to be 
sacrificed to promote a less amount of it in others. And up to 
a certain point the general Well-being is best promoted by the 
principle that within the limitations demanded by strict duty 
every one shall exercise a reasonable care for his own happiness, 
and shall not make such complete sacrifices of material goods or 
advantages as will (he being what he is) involve the destruction 
of his tranquillity and contentment, although such sacrifices 
might be compatible with happiness in better men. This prin- 
ciple may be admitted even for the guidance of the individual 
Conscience and still more when there is a question of incul- 
cating such sacrifices on people in general without going the 
length of saying, with the late Mr. Justice Stephen, that * human 
nature is so constituted that nearly all our conduct, immensely 
the greater part of it, is and ought to be regulated much more 
by a regard to ourselves and to our own interests than by 
a regard to other people and their interests V It is obvious that 
the extent to which this principle can be admitted will be very 
considerably narrowed by the acceptance of a non-hedonistic 
interpretation of Good. As soon as Morality is recognized as an 
end in itself and an essential part of true Well-being, it becomes 
impossible to admit that a pursuit of his own happiness, 
unmixed with and unregulated by a desire for other people's, 
could ever be the vocation of any man, even if in his particular 
case such a course of conduct should chance to be coincident 
with that dictated by the public Well-being. The individual 
should pursue his own Well-being as part of the general Well- 
being, but he will recognize that his moral Well-being demands 
a measure of self-sacrifice. 

(7) The principle that the rationality of self-sacrifice logically 
implies a limitation to self-sacrifice, may be used to justify not 

1 In the Nineteenth Century, No. 118, p. 783. 

Chap, iv, iii] NEED OF INEQUALITY 129 

merely some enjoyment on the part of every individual, but 
even a very unequal enjoyment on the part of some individuals. 
In proportion as we hold that competition, the struggle to raise 
the personal or family standard of comfort, the indulgence and 
development of individual tastes and inclinations in ways which 
involve considerable expenditure of wealth, the increase of 
differentiation in modes of life, and the like are good for Society, 
the individual must in some cases be justified in allowing himself 
an amount of luxury and enjoyment which would not be possible 
for all under the most ideal socialistic regime. It is possible 
to admit that civilization and progress demand considerable 
inequalities without accepting von Hartmann's doctrine that to 
promote maximum inequality is necessarily and under all cir- 
cumstances to promote true social progress. The principle must 
be balanced by the complementary principle that such inequali- 
ties of enjoyment have a tendency to increase beyond the point 
which is socially expedient. To what extent this principle will 
justify the individual in choosing the easier and more enjoyable 
careers, and enjoying an exceptionally favourable social position 
or exceptional good fortune, will depend partly upon the answer 
he gives to a number of social and economic questions, and 
partly upon his personal circumstances and disposition. It is 
unnecessary to repeat once more that this consideration cannot 
possibly justify any individual under any circumstances in being 
merely an enjoyer of other men's labours. It may be good for 
Society that the wages of different classes and individuals should 
vary, even to a very large extent : it cannot possibly be to the 
advantage of Society or to the moral advantage of any individual 
that his wages should be wholly unearned. 

(8) And, lastly, there is the fact that some kinds of work 
which do not call into activity the very highest ' springs of 
action' are as useful as, perhaps more useful than, those that 
do : and that in reference to some of these kinds of work it is 
even truer than of more distinctly spiritual kinds of work that 
'the harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few/ In 
England at least this is notably the case with all the higher 
kinds of intellectual labour. I for one cannot assent to that 
beatification of intellectual pursuits and even of the most 

130 VOCATION [Book II 

selfish forms of intellectual sybaritism which is not unknown 
among persons of literary and speculative tastes, but a demon- 
stration of the supreme social value of such work when it 
really is work will be superfluous in the eyes of cmy one who 
is at all likely to read this book. All history is against the 
attempt to encourage intellectual Obscurantism in the interests 
of a narrow moral or material Utilitarianism. All history testi- 
fies to the intimate connexion, in the long run and within certain 
limits, between moral and intellectual vitality. The darkness 
of the dark ages was not merely intellectual darkness ; the 
stagnation of China is not merely intellectual stagnation. And 
if an appeal may plausibly be made to a few brilliant periods, 
such as the Renaissance, as an exhibition of the possibility of 
high intellectual development in combination with a low morale, 
it must be remembered that the early phases of the Renaissance 
were periods of high moral as well as intellectual enthusiasm, 
and that the intellectual decay which set in so soon in those 
countries where the Renaissance was not also a period of moral 
and religious progress may be distinctly traced to the moral 
corruption. High excellence in Art involves such a long period 
of technical training that the greatest technical perfection of an 
Art movement often comes long after the decline of the moral 
and intellectual forces which produced it. 

It is obvious that these reflections might be spun out indefi- 
nitely. Enough, it is hoped, has been said to illustrate the kind 
of guidance which may be afforded in the solution of such 
problems of vocation by the adoption of a consequential but 
non-hedonistic criterion of Morality. 


It will by this time have become evident that the course of 
our argument has led us from the discussion of a particular 
duty, that of choosing an occupation, into the discussion of a much 
larger and more fundamental question of ethics the distinction 
between Duty and the morally good, between what are sometimes 
called duties of * perfect ' and those of * imperfect obligation/ 
the question whether there are or are not such things as ' works 
of supererogation,' I have already contended that there are 


cases where it is good for a man to contribute in certain ways to 
the general good, though it would not be wrong for him to 
refuse to contribute to it in those ways that there are cases 
where a man may rightfully decline to perform socially bene- 
ficial actions for the reason (among others) that he does not feel 
a natural inclination or strong desire to perform them. On the 
other hand, it has been assumed (as it must be assumed by every 
system which recognizes moral obligation at all) that in some 
cases no amount of disinclination, no consideration of the sacri- 
fice involved, will justify a refusal to adopt the course of action 
which will make the largest contribution to social good. But 
how, it may be asked, can such a distinction be admitted without 
involving ourselves in the jyrima facie immoral corollary that 
a man can do more than his duty? I believe that we have 
already by implication arrived at something like an answer to 
the question. One course, and one only, can ever be a man's 
duty ; but duty itself requires in certain cases that regard shall 
be paid to the inner dispositions and inclinations of the indi- 
vidual. It is always a man's duty to do what conduces most to 
the general good ; but the general good itself demands that, 
whereas some contributions to social good shall be required of 
all men placed under the same external circumstances, in other 
cases contributions differing both in kind and in amount shall 
be demanded of different men. It will be well, however, to 
dwell a little more at length upon the difficulty and importance 
of the problem under discussion. 

The case for and against works of supererogation shall be 
stated by two modern French philosophers of the last genera- 
tion, fimile Beaussire and Paul Janet. The contrast between 
their views on this point is the more striking on account of 
their general agreement in philosophic tendency. In the former 
writer's works we find such utterances as these : 

' Merit and virtue arise from accomplished duty, but in their 
highest degrees they tend to pass the limits of duty : they rise 
to the point of devotion. ... To surrender one's children to the 
service of one's country, when she claims them in the name of the 
law, is a duty of obligation (devoir de droit). To offer them for 
it, when the law allows one to keep them, is a duty of virtue, or 

133 VOCATION [Book II 

rather an act of devotion which goes beyond duty. To withdraw 
them from the legal obligation of a public education where one 
sees a danger for their faith or for their morality, is perhaps 
the most imperious of duties V 

On the other hand, Janet, a typical representative of the 
* spiritualistic ' Philosophy once dominant in France, writes as 
follows : 

* The distinction of two domains, the domain of good and 
that of duty, would conduct us to the inadmissible supposition, 
that between two actions, of which one would be manifestly 
better than the other, the individual is at liberty to choose the 
less good. From what source could this privilege be derived? 
Is it not under another form that opinion of the Casuists so 
severely condemned by Pascal and by Bossuet, the opinion, that 
is to say, that between two probable opinions one is allowed to 
choose the less probable ? * ' 

The writer then proceeds to explain the apparent collision 
between the verdict of reflection and the verdict of what 
Sidgwick would call ' common sense ' on this head by the 
following considerations : 

(a) The degree of self-sacrifice demanded for the performance 
of a man's duty depends upon his circumstances, especially upon 
his ' r61e * in society. When it is demanded either by that ' rdle ' 
or by the exceptional circumstances under which any man may 
find himself placed, ' devotion ' becomes in the strictest sense 
a duty. This is the principle on which I have myself insisted. 
What I desiderate in Janet's admirable treatment of this sub- 
ject is some discussion of the principles by which a man is 
to determine his * rdle ' in society. A theory of duty requires 
a theory of Vocation as its necessary complement. 

(b) The highest degrees of moral perfection are not attainable 
by all men. It is a duty to strive after the highest degree 
of moral perfection that circumstances permit. ' No one is bound 
to do what is impossible : all are bound to do what is possible/ 

(c) The popular distinction between duties and acts which it is 
good to do but not wrong to omit, depends mainly upon a par- 
ticular characteristic of the subject-matter or content of certain 
duties, i. e. their indeterminateness. 

1 Lea Principes de la Morale, pp. 169, 241. 2 La Morale, p. 227. 

Chap, iv, iv] VIEW OF JANET 133 

(d) The development of the moral consciousness in different 
men being unequal, the same actions do not always suggest 
themselves to all men; acts of extraordinary heroism, ideals 
of extraordinary self-devotion, present themselves only to rare 
and exceptionally endowed natures. 

' Further, in so far as the idea of an action has not presented 
itself to our minds, it is evident that it cannot be obligatory on 
us; that ceases to be the case as soon as this idea has been 
conceived by our consciousness. The action, once represented in 
thought, presents itself to us with all the characteristics of duty ; 
and we cannot refuse it without remorse V 

Thus the popular distinction between duties and acts which 
it is good to do is to a certain extent justified, while the immoral 
deduction that it is possible to do more than one's duty, and 
sometimes right to do less, is avoided. With this position 
I should in the main agree. At the same time, I do not think 
that Janet has quite got to the bottom of the difficulty. He is 
no doubt right in holding that it is a duty to aim at doing 
the utmost amount of good that lies in one's power : and there- 
fore it is not possible for a man to do more than his duty. 
Moreover, it is an essential characteristic of the moral law that 
it should be (in the Kantian phrase) 'fit to serve for law universal/ 
i. e. that what is right for one must be right for every one else 
in the same circumstances when they are really the same. But 
it is perfectly consistent with this principle to include a man's 
character, moral, emotional, and intellectual, among the ' circum- 
stances ' or conditions upon which his duty in the particular case 
depends. The neglect of this distinction between external and 
what I may venture to call ' internal ' circumstances or conditions, 
has been the main source of the vagueness and uncertainty 
which has generally characterized the treatment of the distinction 
between duties, and actions that it is good to do but not wrong 
to omit. By Janet the principle of internal or subjective con- 
ditions is to a certain extent recognized ; but the interpretation 
which (here approximating to the position of Martineau) he 
would give to the principle seems to me at once too wide and 
too narrow. The only subjective circumstance, according to 

1 La Morale, p. 232. 

i 3 4 VOCATION [Book II 

Janet, which could ever justify a man in omitting a good action 
which it would have been good for another to perform seems to 
be the circumstance that the good action did not happen to 
occur to him. Similarly, according to Martineau, aji act done 
from the highest motive actually present to the agent is always 
right ; an act is never wrong unless a higher motive than that 
which prompted his actual choice was present to the agent's 
consciousness. Now. it seems to me that the practical maxims 
of such a system would under certain circumstances fall very 
much below, at other times rise too far above, what would 
generally be recognized as the requirements of duty properly 
understood. A crowd stands by while a child is drowned in 
three feet of artificial water in a London park. Would it 
altogether remove the moral disapprobation with which we 
regard the act of one of the individuals concerned if he pleaded 
that it never occurred to him to jump in and save the child ? 
It seems to me that it is quite conceivable that to many persons 
in that crowd the thought did not occur. But it surely shocks 
all common sense to say that in that case they did not fail in 
their duty. There are surely many cases in which a man is 
ignorant of his duty, but in which we cannot deny that such and 
such a course was his duty, whether he knew it or not. From 
Martineau's point of view, indeed, such a statement would be an 
absurdity : since his criterion of duty is wholly subjective, it is 
impossible for a man to be ignorant of his duty. There is, 
according to his view, no objective right or wrong in actions ; 
only a higher and a lower. But Janet insists strongly on the 
necessity of an objective criterion of Morality. It would seem, 
therefore, that we must exclude from the internal conditions 
that may vary the duty of two men placed in similar external 
circumstances the want of knowledge of what the duty is as 
well as the want of will to perform it, however much ignorance 
may in some cases mitigate the culpability. In asking under 
what subjective conditions A may be right in omitting an act 
which it would have been right for B in like external circum- 
stances to perform, we must exclude the absence of sufficient 
devotion to duty on the part of A, or sufficient care to find out 
what his duty is : when we ask what is A's duty, we assume 


that he is anxious to find out his duty and willing to do it when 
found. But we may include in the internal conditions that vary 
duty the presence or absence of all moral qualities which are not 
under the immediate control of the will which may be more or 
less cultivated, but which are not producible to order. Now, 
there are some good actions which do and there are others which 
do not require for their fulfilment moral qualities of this kind. 
A man's duty under all circumstances is to do what is most 
conducive to the general good: but, while the general good 
demands that certain good things shall be done by all men 
irrespective of their natural disposition and the degree of moral 
perfection which they have attained, there are other good things 
which the general good only demands that persons of a certain 
disposition and moral character should perform. Thus the social 
value of truth -speaking is not dependent upon the strength of 
the agent's natural love of truth, or the degree of moral advance- 
ment which he has attained in other respects. However 
reluctantly he speak the truth, Society gets the same advantage ; 
if he lies, the injury to Society is the same. The public Well-being 
demands that all shall speak the truth. A man cannot therefore 
plead that he has no vocation for contributing to social good 
in that particular way : the general good demands that to this 
rule of conduct there shall be no exceptions *. Indeed, the more 
exceptional be the lie, the more harm it is likely to do. On the 
other hand it is good for a rich man (with no obvious private 
claims upon his purse) to sell all that he has, and to give the 
whole of his time and money (in ways consistent with sound 
economical principles) to the service of the poor. But this only 
becomes a duty in persons endowed with a sufficient love of the 
poor to do this not grudgingly or of necessity, and placed in 
certain perhaps rather exceptional external circumstances. In 
that sense it might even be called a work of supererogation, 
though the term is on the whole an objectionable one : not only 
is it not an action demanded by social Well-being of all men 
placed in similar circumstances, but this is one of those cases in 

1 I mean of course exceptions in favour of particular persona ; I recognize 
the existence of exceptional cases when it is the duty of all not to speak the 

136 VOCATION [Book II 

which (as Janet says of the voluntary adoption of celibacy from 
the highest motives) ' it is even evident that this state cannot be 
chosen by some, except on condition of its not being chosen by 
all V The good of Society demands that there should be different 
vocations, some of them morally higher than others. A man can 
never do more than his duty, or without sin do less when once 
he knows what his duty is. But it is sometimes right, because 
desirable in the highest interests of Society, that a man should 
choose what must still be recognized as being from many points 
of view the lower vocation. It is morally as well as socially 
desirable that there should be a great liberty of choice as to the 
particular way and as to the extent to which he will contribute 
to social good ; but that liberty of choice is conditioned by the 
duty and that the most imperative of all duties of adopting 
the vocation to which upon a fair review of all circumstances, 
internal and external, a man believes himself to be called. It is 
conditioned also, I may add and this is a consideration which 
would demand much fuller treatment were I writing primarily 
with a practical object by the duty of moral progress; that is 
to say, of gradually fitting himself (so far as the external con- 
ditions of his life allow) for a higher degree of devotion to social 
good than any to which, being what he is, he could at present 
wisely aspire. 

The general tendency of non-utilitarian Philosophy has been 
either to assume that there is in all cases some one course of 
action which all moral men placed under the same external 
circumstances would recognize as their ' bounden duty/ or to find 
in the mere definiteness or indefiniteness of the received rules of 
conduct a sharp and fundamental distinction between ' duties ' 
and acts which it is good to perform if one likes between the 
terms ' right ' and ' good ' in their application to actions. On the 
other hand, it has been the tendency of Utilitarian Philosophy 
to reduce all duties to a general obligation or encouragement of 
a philanthropy the extent and limitations of which are usually 
left undefined. By means of the principle of Vocation it is 
possible to justify the popular distinction between duties and 
charitable actions, without detracting either from the imperative- 

1 IM Morale, p. 229. 


ness of duty or from the claims of a more abounding charity, 
and to find the basis of that distinction in the requirements of 
social Well-being itself. 

The positions at which I have arrived in the foregoing pages 
may be summarized by the following definitions : 

(1) It is always a man's duty to adopt the course of action 
most conducive to the general Well-being. A man can never do 
more than his duty, nor can he ever (when he knows his duty) 
without sin do less. 

(2) The name of absolute duties may be given to those rules 
of conduct which the general Well-being requires to be observed 
by all men under given external circumstances, irrespectively of 
the subjective condition or character of the agent. 

(3) Acts or omissions which the general good only requires 
under certain internal circumstances or subjective conditions 
may be termed duties of Vocation. 

The question has been one of the traditional subjects of debate 
between Protestant and Roman Catholic Theologians. Catholicism 
has formally asserted, Protestantism has formally denied, the 
possibility of ' works of Supererogation/ If we look to the 
practical effects of the two one-sided doctrines, it would seem 
that Protestantism has in its periods of austerity and enthusiasm 
imposed upon all men a standard too rigid, too restrictive of 
natural and innocent pleasure, to be attainable or morally 
wholesome for the majority of men ; while in its periods of 
dullness and spiritual lethargy it has reduced its moral ideal for 
all men to one of mere respectability, and tended to discourage 
acts or careers of exceptional self-denial and devotion. Catholi- 
cism, on the other hand, has at no period of its history failed to 
give all due encouragement to exceptional missions and high 
religious or social enthusiasms * ; while it has at times relaxed 
the minimum standard of Morality required as 'necessary to 
salvation* to a dangerous and deplorable degree. A true and 

1 It has of course too often sought to bring the ideals and the practice of 
exceptional men into conformity with a single too narrow ecclesiastical type. 
The result has been either rebellion and schism, or (as with St. Francis) 
that the enthusiast's work was largely spoiled by the transformation which 
ecclesiastical authority imposed upon it. 

138 VOCATION [Book II 

healthy view of the matter will combine the two one-sided 
doctrines. With the Protestant it will insist on the necessity 
of a high standard of social duty for all ; with the Catholic it 
will encourage and find room for any amount of self-devotion 
of self-devotion of a kind which really conduces to social Well- 
being in those who find within themselves the capacity and the 
call for such sacrifices. 


The theory that there exists a certain sphere for the indulgence 
of the individual's spontaneous impulses and aspirations seems 
to me the germ of truth involved in the principle which in the 
hands of Prof. Hoffding has been developed into a system which 
may be called one of ' Optional Morality V He has rightly 
insisted on the fact that duties in detail may be different for 
different persons, and that the difference depends upon natural 
character and not merely upon external position, but he leaves 
out what appear to me to be the necessary qualifications of the 
doctrine. Upon his view, it would appear that the requirements 
of sexual Morality will be just what any one likes to make 
them. Prof. Taylor has also rightly insisted upon the idea of 
Vocation, but he seems to me to go much too far when he says 
that such a problem as that of Isabella in Measure for Measure, 
called upon to choose between her chastity and her brother's 
life, is ' altogether a problem for the agent herself to decide, and 
to decide by reference to her own personal feelings V It may 
be quite true that ' what might in one woman be an act of heroic 
self-sacrifice might in another be a cowardly desertion of duty ' ; 

1 See his interesting and instructive article ('The Law of Relativity in 
Ethics ') in the International Journal of Ethics, Vol. I (Oct., 1890). 

Prof. Simmel has also insisted much on the fact that the * ought* (sollen) 
for one individual is quite different from that of another, a principle which 
he pushes almost to the point of allowing the superior individual to dis- 
regard the conditions of social Well-being, but at the same time he very 
strongly insists that there can be only one duty for a given individual at a 
given time and in given circumstances (Einleitung, II,p.39,&c.). All the writers 
mentioned (Hflffding, Simmel, Taylor) seem to me to ignore the limitations 
which must be put to the application of a principle very sound in itself. 

2 The Problem of Conduct, p. 43. 

Chap. iv,v] MEANING OF VOCATION 139 

but that would be in all probability because of the partial 
knowledge which each would possess of the circumstances and 
consequences of her act, and of like acts, upon general Well-being ; 
or because, .though the ideal of each might have much in it that 
is valuable, one or both of them may have been more or less 
imperfect and one-sided. The case seems to be by no means 
a good example of a matter in which duty is really dependent 
upon subjective inclination. I see no reason to doubt that the 
ideal woman ideally informed of the situation would know 
what to do under the circumstances; though, when considera- 
tions are so evenly balanced, the external critic would do well 
to respect, or at least to shrink from severely condemning, either 
choice conscientiously made. But, though the instance seems to 
be an unfortunate one, there can be no doubt that there are 
other cases where the duty really is different for different people. 
The best that is in one man is different from the best that is in 
another, and in order that the best in each should be developed, 
it is desirable not only that there should be limits to the extent 
to which uniform rules of conduct should be externally imposed 
by law or social pressure, but that, even from the point of view 
of the highest Morality, it should be recognized that the duty 
of the individual depends within certain limits upon his individual 
tastes, inclinations, aspirations. The same considerations of 
social Well-being which prescribe this liberty will prescribe also 
its limits. 

We have so far discussed the subject without reference to 
those religious considerations which actually underlie the use 
of the word Vocation to indicate those particular spheres of 
social activity which are different for different individuals. 
A fuller discussion of the relations between Religion and Morality 
must for the present be postponed. Here it may be enough to 
remark that the religious or teleological view of the world, 
insisting on the idea that every human being is intended to 
realize some end, and an end in some measure perhaps different 
from that of every other individual, encourages the view that 
the individual is within certain limits allowed a choice between 
different kinds and different degrees of self-sacrifice ; but it will 
emphasize also the fact that there is some one course of action, 

140 VOCATION [Book II 

if only he can find it out, which is the individual's duty ; and it 
will encourage also the disposition to assume that a strong 
prompting towards or aspiration after a particular kind of social 
service constitutes a presumption that that particular kind of 
social service is one to which the individual is really called 
by God. 


This chapter may conclude with a brief reference to a rather 
curious thesis of Professor Simmel 1 the doctrine that a man 
ought to choose his social function in such a way as to utilize his 
moral deficiencies in the public interest. I should quite admit 
the principle as far as it goes. A man with a love of arbitrary 
power might be well advised in making himself an Indian 
civilian or a schoolmaster ; a man in whom the passion of 
curiosity is strongly developed, a detective ; a man with a great 
distaste for regular work might justify his existence as an 
explorer ; and so on. On the other hand, a man exceptionally 
sensitive to other people's sufferings would be disqualified for 
the profession of a soldier or criminal judge, while he might 
make a good clergyman. What I should not admit is that the 
deficiencies would actually make him better in the work of his 
profession, if they are really moral deficiencies and not merely 
intellectual or emotional capacities which have a value in some 
men but which it might not be desirable for every one to possess 
in the same degree. The soldier will not be the worse soldier 
for being tender-hearted if he has also a strong sense of duty 
and a strong will, though a hard-hearted soldier will not be so 
useless or pernicious as a hard-hearted doctor or clergyman. 
The clergyman will be less valuable even as a clergyman if his 
philanthropy overpowers zeal for righteousness or his sense of 
Justice. What makes the man socially useful is not really the 
absence of certain good qualities but the presence of certain 
good qualities in spite of the absence of certain others. A 
merely one-sided emotional development may from a rough 
practical point of view seem a positive help to a man's usefulness 

1 'Moral Deficiencies as determining Intellectual Functions,' in Inter- 
national Journal of Ethics, Vol. Ill, 1892-3, p. 490 sq. 

Chap.iv, vi] THEORY OF SIMMEL 141 

in a particular position, because human nature is so constituted 
that extreme and yet valuable developments of this kind are 
frequently found in persons who lack the complementary quali- 
ties (which* may be relatively unimportant for that particular 
place in life) ; but still the man would be nearer the ideal if he 
did combine both sides of character. 

It might be possible, indeed, to contend that even the ideal 
man's character (and not merely his conduct) must be to some 
extent relative to his vocation. There is a sense, no doubt, in 
which this is true. We might perhaps adequately recognize this 
truth by saying that in the ideal man the qualities less required 
by his special vocation would be there potentially, if not to any 
great extent actually. The student cannot be so often under 
the influence of strong social or humanitarian emotion as the 
preacher of social reform or the worker in slums, but he may 
be (though unfortunately he tends not to be) equally capable of 
such emotions upon occasion, and just as ready to perform such 
social or humanitarian duties as are actually duties for him. 
And so he will not be the better student on account of any 
defect which can strictly be called a moral defect. A strictly 
moral defect would be, in fact, by definition, the absence of a 
quality which ought to be present in some measure in all 

The question how far there is any single ideal of human 
character is one which deserves a little further consideration 1 . 
If by ' character ' we mean actual, developed tendencies to feel 
and act in a certain way, it may be freely admitted not merely 
that there is an ideal character appropriate to each particular 
vocation or position in life, but that even within the ranks of 
the same occupation, or in matters which have no special relation 
to any particular mode of life, there is room for considerable 
variety of character. The perfection of human society demands 
the interaction of many different types of human excellence, 
moral as well as intellectual. Some kinds of conduct are good 
only in so far as they are exceptional, and would become socially 
pernicious if they were practised too frequently or too exclu- 

1 That there is such a single ideal has been denied by von Hartmann, 
D. sittL Betvusstsein, p. 131. 

14* VOCATION [Book II 

sively ; and there are, as we have seen, certain departments of 
conduct in which a certain type of conduct only becomes right, 
as it is practically only possible, for persons of a certain tempera- 
ment. There are duties peculiar to particular vocations that is 
to say, not merely duties connected with particular offices or 
professions or classes, but duties incumbent on individuals of 
a certain temperament or certain capacities without being incum- 
bent on all ; and there are divergent types of intellectual and 
emotional constitution which qualify a man for one occupation 
or mode of life rather than for another, and make it his duty to 
adopt one rather than another. Within a certain range, Society 
wants for its perfection men of very divergent qualities and 
tendencies. Society requires born Radicals and born Conserva- 
tives. That everybody should exhibit the ideal mean between 
the two would not answer its purposes so well as a division of 
labour between men of different temperaments. The ideal 
' moderate ' in a state of society ripe for revolution would 
be too moderate for a revolutionary, and too progressive for 
a functionary. The moderate Liberal may have his place and 
his work, but he cannot perform the function either of the 
revolutionary or of the good Conservative who makes the best 
of a bad system, or tries to mend it by unheroic improvements. 
Both social functions are useful, but they cannot both be per- 
formed by the same person ; the fact that a man performs one 
makes it impossible that he should perform the other. A man 
cannot be a religious or political reformer of the more thorough- 
going kind and at the same time a guide of timid consciences 
and a gradual improver of existing institutions. There is room 
for a Luther, and there is room for an Erasmus ; but the same 
person cannot undertake both r61es. No doubt a man more 
reasonable than Luther and less timid than Erasmus might 
conceivably have taken either line, though it would have been, 
doubtless, the same with a difference ; but sooner or later there 
must have come the alternative to break with the Roman 
Church or not to break with it. Good might have been done by 
either course, but not the same good ; and, though it is possible 
to think of an ideal man who might have done more good than 
either a Luther or an Erasmus, it is possible, also, that one task 

Chap, iv, vi] PLURALITY OF IDEALS 143 

was best done by a man of a vehement or violent temperament 
and the other by a man of somewhat timid character. 

All this may be fully and freely admitted * ; but there remains 
a sense in which we may nevertheless speak of a single ideal of 
human character, and cannot refuse to do so without contra- 
dicting the most essential deliverances of the moral consciousness. 
In no individual whatever, no matter how circumstanced, can 
there be too great a devotion to duty or to the good, though that 
devotion will show itself in different ways, varying not merely 
with outward circumstances but with intellectual and emotional 
constitution. Moreover, among the emotions, desires, or tenden- 
cies to action which inspire men to promote the good, or which 
are recognized by the moral consciousness as having an intrinsic 
value of their own, there are some which, we feel, ought to exist 
in all men, and without which no man can attain the ideal in any 
position of life, though within certain limits the relative promi- 
nence or strength of them may sometimes vary without making 
one a better man than the other. But there are other desires, 
emotions, and inclinations which may be pronounced good, 
though in this or that individual they may be almost entirely 
absent or undeveloped without his being on that account placed 
on a lower level than those who have them. Under this head 
will fall not merely purely intellectual or aesthetic tendencies, 
but also many qualities which do in a sense belong to character, 
though they are practically inseparable from certain intellectual 
or aesthetic capacities. The capacity to produce or to ' under- 
stand ' music is an intellectual gift which possesses value, but 
the love of music is in a sense a quality of character. Still, it is 
a quality of character which we do not recognize it as a duty for 
all individuals in all circumstances to possess or to acquire, since 
in some cases it either could not be acquired at all, or could only 

1 To a large extent of course the one-sided man is only made more effective 
by the moral and intellectual defects of other people ; in a more perfect 
society there might be no need for such men. But I do not think we 
could suppose the need for such one-sidedness altogether eliminated in 
a society which should still be human. I am here speaking in a merely 
popular way, and do not profess to draw a sharp distinction between a differ- 
ence of qualities or ' characteristics ' and different degrees of development 
of one and the same characteristic. 

144 VOCATION [Book II 

be acquired at the cost of certain other qualities of equal or 
greater value both intrinsically and on account of their social 
effects. In such cases we do not regard the man who possesses 
these qualities as necessarily a better man than the man who 
lacks them. 

With regard to those qualities which are more closely con- 
nected with the state of the will, and have a bearing upon the 
performance of duties which are duties for every man, we 
recognize a certain ideal scale of values. We pronounce that such 
and such qualities are morally higher and better than certain 
others ; but inasmuch as these qualities are not always under 
the immediate control of the will, we do not say that a man has 
necessarily failed in his duty because in his character this ideal 
scale of relative prominence has not been reached. But still, 
I think, we should recognize that, so long as we confine our- 
selves to these more general and universal ingredients, so to 
speak, of human character, there is an ideal balance of these 
qualities which a man cannot fall short of without being a less 
ideal man than he who exhibits it, though in one position the 
higher qualities may be less frequently called into activity than 
in others. For the man of higher nature it might be wrong to 
accept positions in which these higher qualities would have 
small opportunities for their due development and influence 
upon Society. But the ideal man would not be actually dis- 
qualified by the possession of these qualities for any position in 
life whatever ; though, no doubt, in point of fact their presence 
is often found to be accompanied by other qualities or defects of 
quality which might make him less efficient in some positions 
than a less good man. Not only could no man have too much 
devotion to the good in general, but such qualities as love, truth- 
fulness, purity, courage, and the like are qualities which no man 
in any position could have too much of, or be deficient in 
without falling proportionately below the true human ideal. 
Without some measure of those qualities he could not have that 
devotion to duty without which he could not be a good man at 
all. And even with regard to their relative prominence there is 
to some extent an ideal, and a man cannot fall short of the ideal 
without being a man of lower character than the man who 


approximates to it more nearly, though he may succeed in doing 
his duty just because for a man of lower type duty may be 
something different than for the man of higher type. Of these 
universal qualities there can be no excess. A man could not be 
too brave, so long as bravery means simply a willingness to face 
danger when duty calls. On the other hand, there is a kind of 
intrepidity, of positive delight in danger, which the ideal scholar 
might well be without, but which might be an excellent quality 
in a soldier. Nobody can be too charitable, i.e. too desirous to 
do good to his fellows ; but the positive longing for disagreeable 
kinds of service exhibited by a man of the St. Francis type, 
though an excellent and beautiful thing, is not a necessary part 
of the ideal character. It is a quality which makes an excellent 
Friar, but would be a disqualification for the career of a states- 
man or a scholar. We should wish all men to have as much 
goodwill for their fellows as St. Francis of Assisi ; we should 
not wish them all to have the same liking for disagreeable duties 
or the same dislike of learning. All good men must have some 
love of humanity, but a special liking for the young or for the 
old, a desire to save one's country collectively or to save indi- 
vidual souls, a special zeal for Temperance or for Justice or for 
the relief of suffering these are qualities which may be present 
in a high or a small degree without the man being any the 
better or worse than other men somewhat differently constituted. 
A certain respect for knowledge or beauty is a characteristic of 
the ideal good man, as also is a disposition to subordinate them 
to the more imperative claims of Justice and Humanity. In 
so far as men of the philanthropic type altogether lack such 
respect, it must be pronounced a moral defect, though not 
a breach of duty or a sin; in so far as its relative non- 
development is merely incidental to the strength of the humani- 
tarian impulse and the demands of a particular occupation, the 
man with this defect is not morally worse than the man who is 
without it. Indifference to human suffering in an Artist is a defect 
of character; the ideal Artist would possess the potentiality 
of caring for human suffering, which on proper occasions would 
be called into activity. But an Artist might be habitually occu- 
pied with the pursuit of his Art, his mind might be habitually 

146 VOCATION [Book II 

occupied with dreams of beauty and his will absorbed in realizing 
them, while he was comparatively seldom occupied with reflecting 
on human suffering or with efforts to relieve it, without being in 
any wise a worse man, or even representing a lower type of 
humanity, than the ideal Philanthropist. 

We may thus recognize three meanings in the term character 
when used in this connexion: (i) Character in the narrower 
sense means the degree of a man's devotion to the good in 
general. In this sense the ideal is the same for all. To be less 
devoted to the good must always mean to be lower man, while to 
fall below that measure of devotion to good which is necessary 
to the performance of the man's particular vocation is to fail in 
duty. (2) By character may be meant the possession of those 
emotions, desires, tendencies to action, likings and dislikings which 
we always recognize as good (irrespectively of any particular 
occupation or course of life), a measure of which is demanded by 
the true moral ideal for all men, but which may be present in very 
different proportions without occasioning failure in duty, and 
sometimes even without placing the man on a higher or lower 
moral level. (3) Character may be held to include those qualities, 
desires, inclinations, likings and dislikings, or more specialized 
applications and developments of the more universal qualities, 
which, though they may be good in themselves, are incompatible 
with others equally good, and which, therefore, we do not recog- 
nize it as good for all men to possess in all circumstances. Here 
even the total absence of some qualities which we cannot deny 
to possess high value may be compatible with the highest moral 
excellence in the ordinary sense of the word ; that is to say, we 
recognize that the defect has nothing to do with the will, though 
for particular persons it may, of course, be a duty to seek to 
overcome the defect. 

That these three kinds of excellence run into one another, that 
a high development of each of them presupposes some develop- 
ment of the others, and so on, I not only do not want to deny 
but should strongly assert. Any more exact account of them 
would involve elaborate psychological analysis for which this is 
not the place. The sole purpose of this enumeration is to draw 
a distinction between a sense in which there is only one moral 


ideal and a sense in which there are many, all of them excellent 
but to a greater or less degree incompatible with one another. 
That devotion to the good or to duty which is the crowning 
excellence of all is one and the same, however diverse are the 
particular forms in which it manifests itself ; and some other 
qualities and characters are so closely connected with this 
devotion to the good in all its forms that no one could be alto- 
gether without them, or could depart from a certain ideal balance 
or proportion between them, without falling below the highest 
ideal of humanity, though it is passible to fall below the highest 
ideal of humanity without actual sin or failure in duty. As the 
qualities assume more and more specialized forms, have less and 
less connexion with that devotion to the good in general which 
is incumbent upon all, become more and more dependent upon 
intellectual and purely emotional (as distinct from moral) char- 
acteristics, have more and more special reference to particular 
circumstances of life and the specialized activities which corre- 
spond with them, absolute or relative failure in some of them 
becomes more and more compatible with high excellence of the 
man on the whole. In the human ideal there are universal 
elements and particular elements ; the ideal man must be a good 
man in general, but on the other hand there is no such thing as 
goodness in general which does not express itself in one or more 
alternative types or specialized kinds of good activity. In each 
of these types some common characteristics can be discovered, 
but also some elements peculiar to itself. Nay more, since both 
the natural endowments and the external circumstances of each 
man are in some degree unlike those of any other man, there is 
even, we may say, an ideal for each particular individual. 

To deny either of these sides of the truth leads to exaggera- 
tion and one-sidedness. To make the degree of a man's devotion 
to the good in general the only thing that is excellent in human 
character is to set up an empty abstraction a universal with no 
particulars, to make into our ideal a universal man who is not 
and cannot be a real man at all, to forget that devotion to good 
in general can only be realized by devotion to some particular 
kind of good in detail. Or at best it is to substitute an abstract 
sense of duty for the human affections and emotions which are 

L a 

148 VOCATION [Book II 

really better motives of conduct than a sense of duty which is 
without love. On the other hand to deny absolutely that there is 
any such thing as a single ideal for Humanity is virtually to deny 
the objectivity of our moral judgements, or at the very least to 
deny the unique value of Morality in the stricter sense the 
supreme value of the rightly directed will, and of those more 
universal qualities of character without which there cannot be 
a rightly directed will in any man or in any circumstances. 
Since Morality means contribution to the true good of Society, a 
defective devotion to that good, and the absence of qualities which 
impel to the promotion of it, could not be positively demanded in 
the interests of true Well-being, and therefore could not in any 
individual, however circumstanced, constitute no moral defect^ 

Plato seems to have hit the essential truth in this matter when 
he demanded Justice of all, and a certain measure of the other 
Virtues, while he insisted that the same measure or development 
of them was not demanded of all men. This principle of the 
specialization of character corresponding to a specialization of 
social function must be carried much further than he carried it 
so far indeed that we may perhaps regard it as probable that 
for each man there is an ideal which is not exactly the same as 
any other man's ideal ; and for Justice, as the one indispensable 
and dominant Virtue for all, we should perhaps substitute a love 
which may assume very varied forms, but which will always be a 
love of Humanity which is also love of all that is good as such. 



WE have hitherto conducted our enquiry as though each man 
actually arrived at his moral judgements by the independent 
workings of his own moral consciousness, thinking out each 
problem as it arises de novo in complete independence of his 
fellows and their moral judgements. Now it is obvious that this 
representation entirely fails to correspond with the facts. Every 
individual finds himself from the earliest dawn of moral con- 
sciousness a member of a society in which there are established 
rules of conduct, standards of praise and blame, social institutions, 
accepted models, recognized ideals. And the morality of the 
society has been most emphatically enforced upon the individual 
by all kinds of social pressure, ranging from actual or threatened 
punishment down to the most faintly indicated ' disapproval ' or 
the mere withholding of positive commendation. 

The beginning of the process by which the individual becomes 
indoctrinated with the ideals of his society is of course to be 
found in the earliest education of children. The Intuitionism 
which supposed that the young child finds written upon his con- 
sciousness a ready-made code of right and wrong, the whole 
content of the Ten Commandments or of the Ethics of Aristotle 
or of the Sermon on the Mount, is an Intuitionism which, in 
so far as it ever existed outside the imagination of utilitarian 
critics, is a thing of the past. Without entering upon the 
difficult question how far moral ideals or predispositions towards 
them are matters of actual inheritance, it may confidently be 
denied that a child deserted in the woods and suckled by wolves 
would have any moral ideas at all, or that an English child 
brought up by savages would, on attaining the age of twenty-one, 
find himself in possession of the same moral ideas as his father 
and mother. Nobody attains to his moral ideas without moral 
education, and this education is more or less continued through- 


out life. The difference between an Englishman's moral ideas 
and a Chinaman's is enormous. There is a difference even between 
the moral ideas of European nations on much the same plane of 
civilization. There are very few Englishmen, even among the 
highly educated (on whom the pressure of the immediate environ- 
ment is weakened by familiarity with a wider range of moral 
ideas through literature, itself of course a kind of social influence), 
who can suppose that their moral ideas on all points would be 
exactly what they are, had they lived entirely among French- 
men from their earliest years. And with the great majority of 
men the influence of the immediate environment is paramount. 
Their dominant or operative ideal (though there may be some 
higher view of life which shares the secret homage of their 
hearts) is to a greater or less extent the morality of their school, 
their class, their social circle, their profession, their neighbour- 

Now in the admission that people come by their moral ideals 
through education there is nothing whatever to encourage moral 
scepticism, to encourage the doubt whether Morality is after all 
anything more than what other people de facto think about our 
conduct, the doubt whether there is such a thing as an absolute 
Morality discernible by Reason. The discovery that men's 
moral ideas are in a sense the result of education is often in 
actual fact a very fruitful source of moral scepticism, both in 
theory and in practice, but some moral scepticism is a necessary 
condition of moral progress. It was the discovery of the fact 
that the morality of the Persians was not quite the same as that 
of the Greeks, nor the ideal of Sparta precisely that of Athens, 
which originated the crude scepticism of certain Sophists, and 
the theory that Justice was a matter of convention, not of Nature 
(j/o/ma>, not </w<m), with which Plato does battle in the Republic. 
But after all the necessity of moral education supplies no more 
reason for thinking that Morality is purely arbitrary than the 
fact that Mathematics have to be taught is any reason for doubt- 
ing the truth of that Science. I do not, of course, suggest that 
the influence of education upon moral ideas is precisely the 
same in kind or in degree as the influence of education upon the 
development of mathematical capacity. The Science of Mathe- 


matics was, indeed, slowly developed, and that not by experience 
in the ordinary sense of the word, but by mere thinking out of 
the consequences of very simple, self-evident truths ; but it has to 
be laboriously communicated to each individual who wishes to 
become a Mathematician. So far the parallel is complete. But, 
although people do not become Mathematicians without teaching, 
they do all ultimately come to have the same mathematical ideas 
if they have any mathematical ideas at all. Some men are 
incapable of coming to see mathematical truths, but they seldom 
attempt (though I should imagine that such cases might be 
found l ) deliberately and consciously to deny what have become 
accepted truths of Mathematics. Yet, even in Mathematics, it is 
the consensus of practically all persons endowed with adequate 
mathematical capacity who have seriously applied their minds to 
the subject, that causes that Science to be accepted as the type of 
scientific certainty an explanation which, however, is not com- 
plete without the addition that the tests of adequate capacity 
and adequate study are here simple and unmistakable. But the 
moment we leave pure Mathematics and the physical Sciences 
which have reached a mathematical form, this consensus of the 
competent begins to disappear. Even in the less advanced 
branches of physical Science, and in the higher reaches even of 
the most advanced, there is room for wide difference of opinion ; 
and be it observed, this difference is partly due to purely 
intellectual causes, to the different degrees of intellectual insight, 
lucidity of mind, logical power, observation and judgement 
possessed by different men, but only partly. Even here in a 
region comparatively remote from the great practical interests 
which inspire passion and distort judgement every one knows 
to what an enormous extent men's opinions are liable to be 
swayed by such influences as personal loyalty, personal anta- 
gonism, fashion, party spirit, caprice, carelessness, laziness, 
ambition, conceit. Still more obviously do those influences the 

1 As for instance when Hobbes, finding * almost all geometers' against him 
in his controversy with Wallis, declared that * either I alone am mad, or I 
alone am not mad ; other alternative there is none, unless, perchance, some 
one may say that we are all mad together ' (quoted by G. Groom Robertson 
in Hobbes, FhiL Classics for Eng. Readers, p. 183). 


influence of the environment on the one hand and the ' personal 
equation ' on the other mould men's views upon such matters as 
speculative Philosophy, History, Social Science, Politics. And 
yet, in these departments of knowledge nobody seriously doubts 
that there is a truth to be found, and that it is discoverable by 
a proper use of the intellectual faculties which we possess, or 
supposes that there is any remedy for these defects of our 
thinking, any infallible criterion by which to distinguish truth 
from prejudice, except a further, more thorough, more conscien- 
tious use of the very facilities whose limitations we acknowledge. 
In so far as the differences of ethical opinion turn upon the 
question of the right means to be adopted with a view to a given 
end, this difference is of exactly the same kind as differences of 
opinion on any matter of common life. The fact that people 
at one time did not see the wrongness of indiscriminate charity 
could hardly be supposed to weaken our confidence in the validity 
of moral judgements, any more than the Science of Heat is dis- 
credited by the fact that the steam engine is a modern invention. 
But when we turn to the question of ends, there are special 
reasons why in this matter, more than in many others, differences 
of opinion should be peculiarly frequent and why one man's 
opinion should be emphatically not as good as another's. 
Although the power of judging of moral value is, I believe, 
essentially an intellectual faculty, it is a highly special intel- 
lectual faculty. Sensitiveness to the moral ugliness of drunken- 
ness or impurity or appreciation of the moral beauty of un- 
selfishness are qualities which vary in different individuals to 
an enormous extent. And these differences of moral insight, like 
the differences of aesthetic appreciation, by no means correspond 
with differences of general intellectual capacity. Like the power 
of musical appreciation, it appears to be almost wanting in some 
individuals not destitute of high intellectual powers. Moreover, 
intellectual as it is, its actual exercise is, as I have endeavoured 
to show 1 , largely conditioned by the emotional capacity and the 
emotional development of the individual. The judgement 
* Suffering ought to be relieved ' might indeed be made on purely 
intellectual grounds by one who had little or no sympathy with 
1 Cf. above, Bk. I, ch. vi, p. 154 sq. 


suffering. But in practice the clearness with which this truth 
has beenseen,and the intensity of conviction with which it has been 
accepted, depend at least as much upon the emotional as upon the 
intellectual endowments of the race or the generation or the 
individual. Moreover, to a great extent, our moral judgements 
are judgements upon the intrinsic value of certain kinds of 
feeling, and in these cases the judgement of value cannot be 
made unless the feeling is actually felt, except so far as a man 
may (on account of some inferred analogy with what he has 
felt) judge that a certain feeling in another deserves respect, even 
though he may not chance to experience it himself, or may condemn 
it on account of its incompatibility with a feeling which he has 
felt and values. Here again differences between the emotional 
capacity of different individuals affect the value of their ethical 
judgement. Not only do the indi viduaPs powers of correct ethical 
judgement vary, but, except in those in whom this power is strong 
and in the particular directions in which it is strong, these 
judgements of value (like aesthetic judgements) are peculiarly 
liable to be swayed by the judgements of others, and by the 
influence of those emotions and associations through which the 
judgements of others appeal to us. It should be observed that 
some moral or aesthetic capacity is actually presupposed in this 
sympathetic influence, and there are limits to the extent of such 
influence. A man who really does not know what Beauty is, will 
probably not be induced by the ipse dixit of the connoisseur to 
grow enthusiastic, unless it be as a piece of conscious hypocrisy, 
over the work of some fashionable school. It is the man of dim, 
confused, undeveloped aesthetic perceptions, who will grow into 
an admiration for what he is told to admire. He may be induced 
to admire what is less worthy of admiration, and to depreciate 
what is more worthy ; but he could not be induced to admire 
that which possesses no merit or beauty whatever. He would be 
imposed upon by a fairly good copy of an Old Master, but not 
by an execrably bad one. It is just the same in the moral sphere : 
only here the modifying influence of environment is multiplied 
a thousand-fold by all the influences, the emotions (some of them 
of high moral worth), even the moral principles which link us to 
our fellow men. 


There is another important difference between moral and other 
judgements. Not only is the power of judging rightly as to 
ultimate moral values dependent upon a faculty distinguishable 
from a man's general intellectual capacity, but it is to a large 
extent dependent upon the degree in which his will responds to 
those judgements. That moral discernment is the outcome of 
a habit of moral action was the theory of Aristotle. No doubt 
it is much more possible than Aristotle supposed to judge well, 
not merely about means but about moral ends or ideals, and to 
act badly ; but it remains true that to a large extent the power 
of moral intuition may be improved or impaired by our voluntary 
conduct, and therefore the truth of men's moral judgements 
depends not merely upon insight, but upon character. Here we 
have an additional source of inequality in men's powers of dis- 
cerning between right and wrong. 

In view of all these facts, it must appear that the attempt on 
the part of the individual to think out his moral code a priori, 
in entire independence of his environment, is an impracticable one, 
and one which would be disastrous, if it were practicable l . That 
this is so with the great mass of men is sufficiently obvious. 
They have not the knowledge, the experience, the leisure to trace 
out all the advantages and disadvantages of conflicting courses 
of action, whether in detailed circumstances or with regard to 
general principles of conduct. They could not have become 
moral beings at all without moral education ; and yet that moral 
education has been gradually unfitting them for the impartial 
exercise either of their ordinary understanding in dealing with 
means or of their moral Reason in choosing ends. They can only 
have learned to approve and disapprove by actually approving or 
disapproving particular things, and such approval or disapproval 
has been making it more and more difficult for them to approve 

J Dr. McTaggart writes : * Nothing can be more important to me, in 
respect of any branch of knowledge, than my own immediate certainties 
about it. Nothing can be less important than the immediate certainties of 
other people ' (Studies in Hegelian Cosmology, p. 72). But surely even in 
other branches of knowledge than Ethics a man may have to rely on other 
people's immediate certainties e.g. a dyer or a Physicist investigating the 
cause of colour might well consult an Artist who would see shades of difference 
in colour which he could not perceive himself. 


or disapprove something markedly different. Other men's moral 
judgements, sympathetically appropriated by them, have given 
a bias to their emotions, and the emotions have reacted upon 
their judgement. It may be suggested that, on attaining years 
of discretion, the individual would do well to emancipate himself 
from the distorting influence of his social environment, and 
school himself into thinking entirely for himself on moral 
questions. And to some extent this is no doubt desirable ; but, 
if it were done completely, the individual would be thereby 
withdrawing himself from the school in which alone Virtue is 
teachable. Once more the aesthetic analogy may help us. It is 
only by studying great Masters that a man can himself become an 
Artist ; and that study implies that he is submitting himself to 
influences which are moulding his taste and judgement, which 
are every moment limiting in certain directions his power of 
impartially and independently judging between their ideals and 
other ideals. And yet without such education he would never 
acquire any power of independent judgement at all 1 . 

1 Von Hartmann, with his accustomed ethical insight, recognizes that the 
ordinary Morality of the average man is not and cannot be ' reine Autonomie 
noch reine Heteronomie' but 'eine Konkurrenz beider,' and that in the 
average individual intrinsic moral activity must necessarily present itself in 
the form of an external rule which represents an autonomous Morality in the 
community to which he belongs: such Morality is ' nur fiir das Individuum 
als solches eine Heteronomie, aber fur das ganze Volk als Individuum hflherer 
Ordnung betrachtet ist sie Autonomie, nanilich ein Integral aus alien auto- 
noinsittlichen Individualwillensakten ' (Ethische Studien, pp. no, 114). At 
the same time he strongly insists upon Autonomy as the ideal. In much that 
is said in some quarters about Heteronomy and Autonomy there seems to be 
a certain confusion between two senses of the word. A man's will may be 
autonomous enough to satisfy Kant himself, although in some of the details 
of Morality he defers to the judgement of others. Nobody but a lunatic 
refuses to accept the judgement of others in matters of which he knows 
nothing : and nobody can have an independent judgement in every depart- 
ment of conduct. It is only when we come to the most general principles of 
Morality that lack of Autonomy necessarily implies a low level of personal 
Morality. A man is not the less moral because he allows Church or State 
to decide for him the morality of marrying his deceased wife's sister ; though 
he would be an undeveloped moral being if his respect for unselfishness were 
wholly based upon authority. If this be denied, it can only be in the sense 
that absolutely ideal Morality would imply an ideally complete intellectual 


Are we then to condemn the attempt to think for oneself in 
moral matters ? Are we to say that a man must simply submit 
himself wholly and unreservedly to the maxims, the traditions, 
the ideals of the society in which he finds himself ? A moment's 
reflection is enough to negative the suggestion. A principal 
object of moral education is to form the habit of judging for 
oneself. The ancient philosopher who most emphasized the 
necessity of moral education by habituation insisted no leas 
strongly that the moral education was not complete until the 
man had come to see and appreciate for himself the reason, 
the ground, the principle of the maxims which he at first 
accepted on authority 1 . And if the man's moral education has 
been a success, if he really has been taught to use his moral 
Reason, it cannot invariably stop in its exercise at the exact 
point which would prevent the deliverances of his own moral 
consciousness coming into collision with those of his moral in- 
structors. The majority of men, of course, are not likely to rise 
on the whole far above the moral ideal of their society ; but, if 
we do not confound Morality with the mere observance of a few 
traditional, and for the most part negative, maxims of conduct, it 
is clear that very ordinary men must have some moral originality 
or individuality. A man who thought and felt with the majority 
on every detail of life and conduct would be, as nearly as it is 
possible to be, a man without a character. And it is precisely to 
the men in whom moral education has been most successful, who 
have absorbed most completely all that was best in the teaching 
and example by which they were educated, that there are most 
certain to come moments at which they are impelled to question 
the teaching they have received ; and to apply the principles 
which they have imbibed to the criticism of those principles them- 
selves, or to carry them out into applications not dreamed of by 
those from whom they learned them. Moral innovations of this 
sort may of course take a great variety of forms. Sometimes 
there will be a violent reaction against morals that have been 
taught ; and yet the greatest of moral revolutionaries have owed 
not less to their environment than the most rigid traditionalists. 
The environment of Athens produced Socrates as much as it 
1 Aristotle, Ethic. Nicomach., VI. 12 (p. 1144 a). 


produced the Sophists. Ruskin appeared to his average con- 
temporaries from one point of view as a dangerous reactionary, 
from another as a dangerous revolutionary. And yet Ruskin 
can easily be shown to owe as much to an early Victorian 
education as Macaulay. The most violent reaction often owes 
much to the ideas against which it reacts, and the reaction in 
turn often contains within itself the germs of the most startling 
revolutions. And in more ordinary cases moral improvement 
takes place through the expansion, the development, the intensifi- 
cation, the fresh application of principles already acknowledged, 
the clearer vision of truths of which there have been already 
at least many glimpses. 

It is not necessary for our present purpose to analyse further 
the nature of these new stages in moral progress. Sometimes 
the innovation is a purely intellectual discovery, a recognition 
that such and such a principle must necessarily lead to such 
and such a consequence, or that such and such an end could 
be best attained by some hitherto undreamed-of means ; some- 
times it is an emendation of the fundamental axioms (so to 
speak) of moral thought, as when the civic morality of the 
Hellene or the tribal morality of the Jew is supplanted by 
a comprehensive principle of universal Benevolence ; sometimes 
it is some signal increase of the emotional intensity with which 
a quite accepted principle is realized ; sometimes it is the revision 
of the values recognized in ultimate ends or elements of Well- 
being, as when it is seen that a stricter restraint of appetite 
than pagan Ethics required is better worth having than its 
indulgence, or that Christian Humility (properly understood) is 
more beautiful than the self-assertion of Aristotle's jxeyaActyvxos. 
To tie the individual down to absolute acquiescence in the judge- 
ments of his predecessors or his contemporaries would be to put 
a stop to the possibility of moral progress. To tell the man of 
the least gifted moral nature that he is never to think for 
himself about what he ought to do would be to doom him to 
moral stagnation or sterility. Mr. Bradley (who seems rarely 
to touch upon practical matters without violent and obvious 
exaggeration) has laid it down that for a man ' to wish to be 
better than the world is to be already on the threshold of 


immorality 1 / It would be truer to say that the man who is 
content to be as moral as his neighbours has already passed 
considerably beyond that threshold. Would not any one who 
really supposed that at all times ' wisdom and virtue consist in 
living agreeably to the Ethos of one's country ' inevitably have 
voted for the condemnation of Socrates, and have joined the 
crowd which shouted ' Crucify him, crucify him ' ? 


How, then, are we to adjust these two principles the prin- 
ciple of moral authority and the principle of private judgement, 
both in their way essential to a sound Morality in society and in 
individuals? At the earlier stages of moral development the 
question can never arise ; for to a large extent the influence of 
the Authority is unconscious : to question it already implies the 
first stage of emancipation. Authority achieves its most com- 
plete success when it is no more felt as Authority than we are 
directly aware of the pressure which the atmosphere is at every 
moment exercising upon our bodies. But if we suppose a child 
or a man who has arrived at the stage of intellectual and moral 
development at which he is capable of asking, ' How far should 
I obey Authority in Ethics ? ' we should have to say to him just 
what we should have to say to a man who asked, ' How far am 
I to rely upon Authority in matters of historical criticism or of 
aesthetic judgement ? ' In the latter case, for instance, we should 
tell him, * You must begin by accepting provisionally the judge- 
ment of the best guide you can find. If you begin to paint 
Nature without the assistance of those who have studied Nature 
before you, it is unlikely that you will ever paint better than 
some crude predecessor of Cimabue. On the other hand, if you 
try to form your taste by studying all the pictures that you 

1 Ethical Studies, p. 180. Elsewhere Mr. Bradley quotes with approval 
Hegel's commendation of a purely particularistic morality (ib. p. 169) : 
' Hence the wisest men of antiquity have given judgement that wisdom and 
virtue consist in living agreeably to the Ethos of one's people.* This nearly 
approaches the doctrine of Kirchmann (' Jedes Volk muss sein Sittliches fiir 
ein Unbedingtes und Unveranderliches halten '\ against whom von Hartmann 
polemizes as the typical representative of the * moral principle of Hetero- 
nomy ' (Das sittliche Bewmstsein, p. 63). 

Chap, v, ii] LIMITS OF AUTONOMY 159 

come across without allowing your judgement to be warped by 
the suggestion that you will probably find the best pictures in 
the National Gallery, you would be in great danger of never 
finding your way to Trafalgar Square at all. And even at 
Trafalgar Square it is not every boy or man who would learn 
to think the Old Masters better than an average English 
Academician if he had never been told that they were generally 
so considered. But it is in vain to suppose that in following 
this course you will not have contracted a bias. The greatest of 
the great Masters show the influence of their teachers. But in 
course of time you will learn from your chosen guides them- 
selves, in proportion as you have chosen them well and in 
proportion as you are capable of learning it, how gradually to 
correct that bias, and to judge for yourself what is beautiful. 
You will give up your reliance upon Authority just where 
and in so far as you see reason to suspect that your chosen 
guides were wrong, and that you are more likely to be right/ 

There are, indeed, differences between Morality and other 
matters which tend to increase the necessity of caution in 
attempting to strike out a new line in practical Ethics. 
I have already emphasized the much greater liability of moral 
as compared with other judgements to be distorted by our 
private passions and wishes ; and this is a consideration which 
may recommend Green's useful maxim that, while a man may 
not go far wrong in imposing on himself some new restraint 
which is not generally recognized by his contemporaries, he 
ought to hesitate very much longer before he allows himself 
any indulgence which the accepted Morality condemns. Wo 
must likewise bear in mind the very much greater importance 
of such innovations in Morality as compared with judgements 
on mere matters of opinion. The publication of a new theory 
may aid the progress of Science even when it is ultimately 
refuted ; the harm which may be done by a word lightly spoken 
against accepted moral standards may be great, even when the 
particular scruple which is derided may chance to be a baseless 
one ; though we have also to remember the tendency which un- 
necessary restrictions have to weaken men's respect for those 
which are necessary, particularly when the unnecessary restraint 


is no longer really approved by the consciences of those on whom 
they are imposed. It is not every occasion on which we fail to see 
the reason of some established rule, or even every occasion on which 
we think we see a reason against it, that calls upon us to break 
the commandment and teach men so l . Just the same considera- 
tions which make it a duty in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred 
to obey a law even if we think it pernicious may often make it 
a duty to fall in with some social convention which we think 
irrational. There are many matters in which it is of more impor- 
tance that there should be a rule universally accepted and obeyed 
than that the rule should be the best possible. This is, of course, 
the case with the great mass of petty matters regulated by the 
etiquette of Society, or the custom of nation or class, or, again, 
with matters so fundamental that they can only be altered by a 
legal or social revolution. Sometimes, even when we think the 
rule pernicious, there may be many circumstances in which the evil 
consequences of compliance are less than those of non-compliance. 
We are bound, again, to take account of established moralities, 
even when we ourselves feel it a duty to protest against them. 
We may feel that the evil of gambling makes it desirable that 
even moderate playing for money should be banished from 
respectable society ; but, till the rule is established, we are not 
justified in treating a man who breaks it as an offender against 
acknowledged Morality or good manners. It is impossible to 
define the degrees of clearness and conviction on our part which 
will make it a duty to violate some established rule of our 
society. It is only important to insist that the ultimate 
standard of right and wrong should be the individual's own, 
and that he should exercise his own moral judgement even when 
he ultimately decides that respect for some authority compels him 

1 Simmel, a by no means conservative Moralist, has pointed out how, 
through association with acts really immoral, the doing of acts merely con- 
ventionally wrong may produce upon the consciousness of the agent all the 
effects of real wrongdoing and so lead to real moral deterioration (Einleitung, 
II, p. 406 sq.). The fact may be used on both sides as a warning both 
against lightly disturbing accepted rules of conduct, and against binding 
unnecessary burdens upon Consciences which do not really acknowledge 
their obligation, though they may not be sufficiently clear-sighted deliberately 
to repudiate them. 

Chap, v, iii] THE CONFLICT OF IDEALS 161 

to act otherwise than he would do if he had no such authority 
before his eyes. And that brings me to a consideration which 
has hitherto been left out of account a consideration of vital im- 
portance, which is, however, too generally neglected in discussions 
as to the relation between the society and the individual in the 
sphere of Ethics. 


I have hitherto written as though each individual found 
himself a member of a single homogeneous ' society ' confronted 
with some one clearly defined, universally accepted moral code 
or ideal, professed and more or less practised by every member 
of that society (subject to modification only by his own personal 
and individual aberrations), commended to his acceptance equally 
in all its parts by the united weight of that society's authority, 
and enforced upon him by its 'social sanctions/ In practice 
we know that this is very partially the case. In a very primitive 
tribe, or within the limits of an Indian caste, there may be some 
approach to such a concentration of social Authority ; in such 
societies there may be found a single standard of conduct, 
unanimously accepted, and in its more important articles 
enforced with such uniformity that transgression of established 
custom is almost unknown. But such is not the case at any 
more advanced stage of moral development. Least of all does 
this representation correspond with the circumstances of any 
modern man in any civilized modern community ; in any such 
society there is not one moral ideal but many ideals, more or less 
exalted, more or less conflicting. It is not merely that different 
individuals have different ideals ; there is in truth no such 
single ' society ' as is contemplated by the conventional way of 
speaking. The individual is not a member of one ' society,' 
but of a network of (if we may so say) interlacing ' societies/ 
each of which has its far more or less clearly defined and more 
or less peremptorily enforced ideal. The schoolboy is a member 
of one society called his family ; the adult outside world is for 
him largely represented by his Schoolmaster ; through literature 
he is brought into connexion not with one but with a number of 
more or less harmonious, more or less discordant moral worlds ; 



while he is also the member of a society with a quite distinct 
ideal of its own, an ideal forced upon his attention with far 
more peremptory insistence than either of the former i. e. the 
society of his schoolfellows ; and even here there may be 
a collision between the ideals of many conflicting sets or strata 
of school society. These considerations are of importance for 
our subject in several ways. On the one hand, it should be 
observed that the environment which exercises the maximum of 
social pressure upon the individual is generally the immediate 
environment. Now the moral level of this environment may be 
considerably below that of the surrounding society, and yet its 
'sanctions' are enormously more powerful. The only public 
opinion that matters much to an unmarried officer is that of 
his mess, and there is no guarantee that the public opinion of 
a mess will be up to the level even of that entirely vague 
and indefinite ' public opinion* which is supposed to exist in 
Society at large. Moreover, in certain particular points and 
respects the public opinion of a man's immediate society is 
nearly always paradoxical as it may appear below the level 
of that of the surrounding society. For the public opinion of 
each of the particular groups of which Society is composed is 
likely to be weakest precisely on those points on which for that 
particular group the temptation is strongest. The opinion of 
the 'general public' on the subject of adulteration and tricks 
of trade is sound enough; but what practically presents itself 
as public opinion to the average grocer is the public opinion of 
grocers, or at most of tradesmen at large. The general public 
condemns in the clergy the practice of preaching sermons stolen 
wholesale without acknowledgement, and taking credit for their 
originality ; it is among the clergy that the condemnation of it, 
though not non-existent, is least strong. In many cases the 
public opinion of a man's own particular group is absolutely 
opposed to the interests and to the public opinion of the wider 
society around. It is probable, of course, that every member of 
this smaller group is more or less aware of the wider opinion ; 
and this wider public opinion will often present itself as an ideal 
which his own higher self respects, however little he may seek 
to live up to it. But still it is the lower and narrower ideal 


that is most conspicuously illustrated by the conduct of a man's 
' neighbours/ and to which the ' sanctions ' of public opinion 
are for the most part attached. It is this fact which renders 
so futile the Utilitarian attempt to find in public opinion a 
' sanction ' which will identify the interest of the individual 
with the interest of the whole, and which renders so deeply 
immoral (if it is to be taken seriously) the teaching of ' ideal 
Morality ' when it bids a man take as his ultimate moral 
criterion the average practice of his neighbours not (be it 
observed) the ideal of his neighbours, but their actual practice. 

The truth is that Philosophers like Mr. Bradley habitually write 
about Ethics as though the average man were perfectly moral, that 
is to say the average man of the * respectable* classes, for they seem 
usually to leave out of account the most numerous class of their 
fellow citizens. It is the man who reads the Times or the 
respectable shopkeeper who always does duty for ' the plain man ' 
in practical matters, though (in Mr. Bradley's own case) this 
apotheosis of middle- class respectability jostles oddly enough 
with pleas for very startling innovations or revisions in certain 
departments of Morality. Now this way of representing the 
moral life is not merely defective ; it betrays a want of sympathy 
with all efforts after anything higher than the conventional ideal, 
with all forms of moral enthusiasm, with all intenser forms of 
moral life in every age with the more enthusiastic Christianity 
of past or present, with the heroism of Russian revolutionaries, 
with what is best in socialistic or labour movements nearer 
home. It misrepresents and caricatures that moral life of the 
average man which it affects to find so satisfactory. For 
that average man is deeply conscious for the most part of a 
higher ideal than that which is realized in his habitual conduct. 
His conduct would fall below the level which it actually attains 
if it were not for the partial and occasional influence of the ideal 
with which his higher self identifies itself : and yet it is not the 
strivings of the higher self so much as its defeats which most 
obviously force themselves upon the notice of any one who is 
prepared to take average practice as representative of the 
average man's ideal and therefore of his own. The public 
opinion of our neighbours is not the source of what is best in 

M 2 


the lives of most men: for those who are really struggling 
towards the light * the world ' often becomes synonymous with 
all that is evil. It is the public opinion of the immediate 
environment which is practically most important to a man, and 
that public opinion often assumes the form of persecution in its 
dealings with the individual who aims at an ideal higher than 
its own, all the more because it is secretly conscious that it is 
higher and truer than its own *. 

The average man is thus normally more or less conscious of, 
and more or less influenced by, an ideal or ideals higher than 
that of ' his neighbour's ' average performance. But it is none 
the less important to remember that this ideal is as much a social 
ideal as the other. The Conscience that accepts it, with whatever 
degree of clearness and consistency whether as the deliberately 
chosen rule of life, or with distant homage as an ideal almost 
too high for daily practice, or with confused and intermittent 
allegiance is not indeed the passive reflection of other people's 
opinions which it is represented to be by those who insist most 
upon the social origin of our moral ideals ; for (as we have seen) 
it is only a consciousness that has in it some power of recogniz- 
ing right and wrong for itself that is capable of education by 
Society. But still it is a Conscience moulded and educated by 
Society. Its ideal is for the most part though not without 
more or less of modification through the independent exercise of 
the individual's trained faculty of moral judgement an ideal built 
up for it by a society, and received from a social environment. 
But it is an ideal deliberately chosen and selected by the indivi- 
dual from a number of competing social ideals. Take any person 
whose actual conduct is in some particular markedly above the 
level professed and the practice of his immediate surroundings 
the schoolboy who stands out against the all but universal bad 
custom sanctioned by the school opinion, the trader who is 
impoverished by his honesty, the member of a worldly family 

1 'Each little society, distinguished from the background of universal 
humanity by reason of certain ideas and endeavours that are common to its 
members, represents a social will, which has all the characteristics of an 
independent reality, in that it operates as a self-active force both on the 
individuals comprising it and on the regions of life above it* (Wundt, Ethics, 
B. T., Ill, p. 36). 

Chap, v, iii] SOCIAL ORIGIN OF IDEALS 165 

who gives himself or herself to good works. In most cases you 
could definitely tell where this apparently isolated individual 
has got his ideal from. No doubt in many cases he has, in a 
sense, got it from the very persons who commended it so little 
by their habitual maxims or their usual practice. For mere 
ordinary common sense may be sufficient to detect the inconsis- 
tency of the schoolboy who is indignant enough against other 
kinds of falsehood or deceit but introduces an illogical exception 
in favour of ' cribbing ' : the dishonest trader has himself 
denounced the corruption of government officials : the worldly 
mother may herself have taught her children that it is good to be 
charitable to the poor. But if there is really nothing in the 
immediate environment to suggest the higher ideal, the social 
source of the ideal could still in general be traced in the wider 
environment. In most cases it could be discovered in an actual 
personal or social influence a teacher, a friend, a social group, or 
a ' movement ' with which the person has been in some kind of 
contact, a book, a preacher, or the higher ideal to which the 
dullest, the deadest, the most conventional worship bears witness. 
Even where the individual seems most completely cut off from 
the society in which the highest ideal is formally professed or 
actively lived out, there is still through education or literature 
some contact with a wider environment. The most 'secular 1 
education can hardly keep the pupil in entire ignorance of a 
literature that is steeped in Christian ideas: the most mun- 
dane circles read newspapers which communicate a knowledge of 
the existence of human suffering and of active efforts to relieve it. 
The individual Conscience, however active, still almost in- 
variably finds its highest ideal, or at least the suggestion of its 
highest ideal, not in any actually new creation of its own, but 
in an ideal already active in some other soul, more or less 
realized in other lives, more or less accepted by some actual 
society of human beings. If any doubt remain on this matter, 
one may point to the fact that the most original moral 
teachers nevertheless generally betray the source of their moral 
inspiration. No doubt the very existence of an absolute moral 
truth which human Reason has the faculty (more or less of it in 
different individuals) of discerning for itself implies that those 


in whom the faculty is most active should exhibit some tendency 
towards an approximation in quite independent moral judge- 
ments. Nothing is more childish than to assume that every 
coincidence between the teaching of early Christianity and some 
other literature shows that one borrowed from the other. But 
still in the emphasis which is laid on this or that aspect of 
Morality, in the form which is given to their moral theory, in 
the more subtle and delicate tones of character, the men of 
highest moral genius and strongest moral faculty will still show 
the influence of the social ideal by which their own moral 
capacity has been evoked. To say nothing of the broad contrast 
between Hellenic and modern civilization, the best men even 
within the pale of civilized Christendom rarely fail to show 
where they got their ideals. The ideals of the best Roman 
Catholics and of the best Protestants approximate to each other 
much more closely than those of the worst in each faith, but 
they are never the same. The difference remains even where 
the strictly theological side of Christianity has been abandoned. 
Comte's ideal was Catholicism without Christianity : Carlyle's 
was Puritanism without its Theology. The difference remains 
even in the mast powerful, the most individual, the most erratic 
of moral natures. The ideas of Count Tolstoi are steeped in a 
Christianity which is palpably Eastern, ascetic, half Manichean. 


And yet all this talk about the social character of our moral 
ideas and the social education of the moral conscientiousness 
must not blind us to the fact that after all the sole ultimate 
source of moral truth is the immediate affirmation of the 
individual moral consciousness. No matter how widely diffused 
a moral idea may have now become, it was once probably the 
judgement of an individual at variance with the whole of bis 
environment. No doubt when an idea is ' in the air ' as we say, 
it seems to have occurred to a great many minds at once with- 
out any one of them owing it to the others ; and, when that is so, 
each of those minds must have been itself working (to whatever 
extent it went beyond the accepted standard or the new sugges- 
tion received from outside) independently of any other mind. 


But quite as often the individual was at first a vox clamantw in 
deserto to the people immediately around him, though other 
scattered individuals were at the same moment thinking much 
the same thoughts. Minds may react on one another, but there 
must be action first or there can be no reaction. No doubt some 
great steps of moral progress do take place in a spontaneous, 
collective way in which it is scarcely possible to trace the con- 
tributions of individual minds. This is usually the case with 
the later phases of great movements. But the greatest of all moral 
revolutions have definitely originated with the conscious work 
of an individual mind l , and at all events they originate with the 
few, not with the many. It is of fundamental importance to 
recognize the unequal distribution of moral capacity. The men 
of moral genius are few, and yet it is to them that we owe what 
now passes for the accepted moral code or ideal of Society. The 
power of recognizing a moral truth when it is once pointed out 
is much more widely diffused than the power of independently 
discovering it, just as the power of recognizing and appreciating 
good music is more widely diffused than the power of composing it. 
And yet even this power of recognizing and appropriating moral 
truth is by no means uniformly diffused. Some measure of it is 
probably possessed by nearly every human being, though there 
may conceivably be such a thing as actual moral insanity even 
where there is no general insanity ; and there probably exist large 

1 Wundt is one of the few formal writers on Ethics who, in talking 
about 'society/ do not forget the 'enormous importance of leading minds,' 
in the formation of the moral code. 'In the totality of psychical develop- 
ment all individual wills have not the same importance. . . . Hence a theory 
like Hegel's historical philosophy, which regards the social will as the sole 
objective ethical force, and holds that the function of the individual will is 
merely an unconscious partaking in and fulfilment of the social will, is 
an exceedingly partial view of the truth. Such a theory is a complete 
antithesis to the equally one-sided individualism of the preceding centuries * 
(Ethics, E. T., Ill, pp. 34-5). So again : ' the majority of individual wills 
represent the passive and receptive element ; the real force that occasions 
every alteration and transformation [of social institutions] being exerted 
by the leading minds. The original, creative intellectual power is thu 
always the individual will* (ib., p. 36). All this is the more significant 
inasmuch as Wundt goes to the verge of mysticism in recognizing the 
'reality ' of the social will. 


numbers of people in whom the capacity, though existing, has 
never actually been awakened l . But the higher degrees of moral 
susceptibility are the possession of the few. When an ideal or 
a moral rule is said to be accepted by a society (in so far as any 
beyond the most negative and elementary conditions of social 
life ever are accepted by so heterogeneous a society as a modern 
nation), it is accepted with infinitely various degrees of indepen- 
dence and of intensity. It is often only the few whose moral 
consciousness actually sees the truth of the ideal for itself ; the 
many accept it on authority from the many, and this acceptance 
may vary from a clear and whole-hearted recognition to a mere 
reluctant acquiescence which commands obedience only in so far 
as the rule or ideal is enforced by an adequate sanction. 

This unequal distribution of moral faculty prevails as regards 
all the various elements of which the moral faculty (in its wider 
sense) is composed the purely intellectual power of applying 
means to ends or of applying a principle to the particular case, 
the power of discerning and realizing universal moral truths, the 
capacity for pronouncing the judgement of comparative value in 
the concrete case, the capacity for those various kinds of emotion 
which are the condition of our passing those judgements. But 
it is especially and pre-eminently in the power of comparing 
the moral value of the various elements of our Well-being, and 
most of all in duly appreciating the higher of those elements, 
that this inequality is at its greatest. It is here that the 
acquiescence of the many in the accepted moral standards is 
most obviously due to the influence of Authority. The great 
majority of men in a modern community really do believe not 
very consciously or analytically, nor with very profound depth 
of conviction or emotional fervour but still do see for them- 
selves that it is good to promote the Well-being of Society, or at 
all events to avoid what is grievously detrimental to it ; and 
they have no difficulty in recognizing that Well-being includes 
health and food, clothing, shelter and the like. But when 
we come to the intrinsic value of intellectual goods, how 
far can this be said to be actively recognized by the majority 

1 Aristotle recognized the existence of men nfrrrjpupwoi npbs ap<rf)v (Eth. 
Nfc. I. 9, p. 1099 b). 


even of fairly educated persons? There is a more or less 
distinct feeling that the more intellectual kinds of amuse- 
ment are better than the coarser or more sensual perhaps not 
much more. Certainly the idea of serious study (except when 
directly ' useful ') is a common subject of open derision in much 
society which is supposed to consist of educated men. Many of 
our professional teachers are constantly enforcing the unimpor- 
tance of intellectual culture in comparison with athletic exercises 
and a certain boyishness of demeanour which they call manliness. 
The judgement that study is good is one which is not actually 
made except by a small number of intellectual persons, and not 
by all of them. The influence of the minority which believes 
in such things is (in many circles) only just sufficient to prevent 
a life devoted to such pursuits (at least when unpaid) being 
treated as positively immoral and this, perhaps, only because 
* public opinion ' has hardly yet risen to the point of treating any 
form of idle life as immoral. By the narrower religionists a life 
of study is often explicitly condemned. When we come to 
the intuitive judgements on which the duties of Purity and 
strict Temperance are based, who shall say what proportion of 
men really see for themselves the moral value of the good 
implied, the moral worthlessness of the pleasures condemned? 
And what proportion of those who acknowledge and who 
practise these virtues would judge the same apart from the 
influence of the authority by which they were commended ? 
In the vast majority of cases in which these virtues are practised 
there is, no doubt, a consciousness of the moral obligation which 
goes far beyond mere submission to an externally imposed rule ; 
in the vast majority of those who do not even aim at practising 
these duties, and who would loudly protest to themselves and 
to others that they ' see no harm ' in disobedience, there is 
probably an uneasiness of Conscience which is much more than 
a mere consciousness that their conduct would be condemned by 
their stricter contemporaries. But it is probable, also, that in 
these cases the dimmer intuitions of the many are in a peculiar 
degree dependent for their own existence, and for the influence 
which they exert upon conduct, upon the clearer and more 
powerful intuitions of the few. 


That the more obvious moral problems are already settled for 
the individual by the accepted rules of his country, or class, or 
profession, and that it is, as a rule, not wise for the average man 
to transgress these universally accepted rules, will be generally 
admitted by all but the very fanatics of moral 'Autonomy. 1 
But it is often forgotten that it is only in the region of the most 
elementary Morality that there is this universal consensus. It 
is agreed that a man should earn his living if he has no c private 
means ' ; that he should support his wife and children, and not 
ill-treat them; that he should pay his debts, with a possible 
exception in favour of persons of very exalted social rank ; that 
he should keep the letter of the seventh commandment (some- 
times with a similar reservation) ; that he should not tell any 
lies or practise any dishonesties except those sanctioned by the 
customs of his class or profession. That is almost as far as this 
accepted morality of the community will carry him. But when 
he gets beyond this, it is often assumed (so far as it is admitted 
that any further morality is desirable, or even allowable) that 
the individual who is anxious to do his duty should fall back 
upon the unassisted deliverances of his own moral conscious- 
ness. It is forgotten that, just as it is only by the ordinary 
discipline of social life that the Conscience of the individual is 
educated up to the low minimum standard which receives 
a pretty general recognition, so it is only by a higher social 
education by contact with characters, ideals, socially accepted 
standards of a higher type that he can hope to carry his 
own moral education further. The mere preaching of the rule 
'Obey your Conscience/ as the whole duty of man, tends to 
make men satisfied with their actual performance, and to 
obscure the duty of educating the Conscience. It is often for- 
gotten, even by people who are conscious of the existence of 
a higher standard of conduct than their average performance, 
and are not without desire to rise above it, that they are only 
likely to come nearer to their own ideal by seeking to elevate 
the ideal itself. For practical purposes, the process of educating 
the will to more faithful obedience to Conscience, and that of 

Chap, v, v] MORAL SELF-CULTURE 171 

increasing the sensitiveness of Conscience itself, are, if not 
actually identical, at least very closely connected. More than 
this I must not say as to the practical importance of a due 
recognition of the necessity of what we may call the higher 
education of Conscience. I must be content with pointing out 
certain corollaries in the region of strict ethical theory which 
flow from what has been said as to the influence of Authority on 
ethical ideals and ethical practice : 

(i) There is a whole group of duties which hardly find a place 
in most recognized classifications, the duties which may be com- 
prehensively included under the duty of moral self-culture. 
This will include the duty of doing all the things which the 
individual has reason to believe (from his own experience or his 
knowledge of other people's experience) will tend to elevate 
his moral ideals, enlighten and strengthen his moral judgement, 
cultivate and discipline the emotions in the way most favourable 
to the growth of high ideals of his duty, and to the influence 
of those ideals upon his will. For the believer in any form of 
Religion, this duty will include worship of the kind dictated 
by that faith, and all religious practices which really tend in 
the direction indicated; for the non-believer they will include 
whatever forms of self-examination, meditation or reflection, 
instruction or association with persons influenced by the same 
ideas and pursuing the same ideals as himself may have 
been found morally beneficial by such persons. Some of the 
forms of Comte's ritual may fairly excite a smile ; but he 
ought not to be ridiculed for recognizing that disbelief in 
Theology (whether well founded or otherwise) does not dispense 
with the necessity of moral culture, and that such moral culture 
must be essentially social. But I would not be supposed to be 
merely pleading here for a recognition of the duty of going to 
Church. The forms and instruments of moral self-culture must 
vary enormously with time, place, circumstance, and individual 
disposition, and in no case can the duty be considered to have 
been exhaustively discharged by simply * going to Church/ 
valuable and important as that undoubtedly is to those who 
share the beliefs which make it possible. The duty is only 
a particular application of the principle that a man has not 


performed his duty until he has considered and adopted the best 
means of knowing his duty better, and of caring more intensely 
to do it 

(a) In considering any question of duty on which doubt may 
have arisen, a man should give due weight to Authority ; but 
the authority to which he should attach weight will not be the 
authority of the majority, of ' public opinion ' (e. g. the Times 
newspaper), or of his neighbours (i. e. the little circle of persons 
by whom he happens to be surrounded), but the authority of the 
best men and of the best circles, of the rules and maxims which 
they have prescribed, of the ideals which have commanded and 
still command the greatest weight and have inspired the noblest 
action in such persons and circles. Aristotle was not wrong in 
the weight which he attributed to the judgements of the Wise ; 
he did not adequately emphasize the fact that when a man's 
own moral judgement is clear and strong enough he ought 
to defy the judgement even of the Wise, after he has 
duly endeavoured to educate and instruct himself in their 

(3) Of course in the majority of cases at least where the 
doubt relates to some question of moral principle as distinct 
from a mere doubt about the wisdom, say, of some political 
measure, or some technical matter on which he may avail himself 
blindly of expert advice the individual, after availing him- 
self of the instruction and advice of his authority, will come 
to see for himself the truth of the rule or principle which 
comes to him commended by the greater weight of moral 
Authority, though he may not always be sure that he would 
have found it out for himself, or have assented to it if it had 
been propounded to him by an authority for which he felt no 
reverence. But there are cases where it may be right for a man 
to bow to moral Authority when he finds no clear answer to 
problems in his own moral consciousness, or even when he feels 
that his own judgement (in so far as he can isolate it from the 
influence of his authority) would have been the other way. 
Whether a man should act on his own view of right and wrong 
against a consensus of the best men whom he knows will of course 
depend (a) upon the clearness and strength of his own con- 


viction, (6) upon the nature of the alternative before him. It 
might often be right for a man to forgo an indulgence in which 
he sees himself ' no harm ' in deference to Authority, where it 
would not be right to take upon himself the responsibity of 
what presents itself to his own mind as an act of injustice. 
The logical basis of this submission to Authority in the more 
strictly moral sphere is exactly the same as that upon which it 
is reasonable to rely in any sphere of life upon the authority of 
others, and it is needless to observe that nine-tenths of our 
actions are in practice based upon knowledge which we accept 
upon authority without being able to explain the grounds upon 
which it rests. We act upon the judgement of the man who 
seems to us most likely to know; and, when we are unable 
directly to test the fact of a man's possessing the knowledge he 
claims, we assume that the man who is most often right where 
we can test his judgement will be right in similar questions 
which our own insight or experience is insufficient to decide. 
We have found that the judgement of the artistic expert has 
proved right so far as we have been able to follow him ; we 
think he is likely to be right even when we have not succeeded 
in admiring what he admires. We know by the way he sings 
and plays that another man's musical powers are much in advance 
of ours ; we infer that he is likely to be right when he tells us that 
we are singing out of tune, though we were unable ourselves to 
perceive the fact. And so in the ethical sphere it would be quite 
right for a man who saw no harm in occasional drunkenness to 
defer to the consensus of persons whom he recognizes in other 
ways as men of more delicate moral perceptions than himself l . 

It can hardly be seriously doubted that most good acts of 
most good men are done without deliberate and self-conscious 
reflection on the reason why they are good. In most cases 
their belief is really (as the outside observer can see) dictated by 
Authority ; in some cases the agents are themselves well aware 

1 A friend suggests that it is a mistake to assume that the ' most delicate ' 
conscience is always most likely to be right. I certainly do not mean that the 
person who has most scruples is the most likely to be right : I should myself 
regard the ultra-scrupulous person as one of the worst /ossible advisers in 
some kinds of moral difficulty. 


of the fact. They could give no reason why this or that act is 
wrong except that it had always been thought so. As a rule, 
of course, the same tradition, or habit, or example, or association 
which psychologically explains their conduct causes them also 
to think that their dislike of such and such an act is the result 
of their own judgement. The more completely their moral con- 
sciousness is moulded into accord with the ideal of their 
authority, the less are they aware of its influence. But some- 
times, in moments of reflection, a man must say to himself, 
* I do not know any reason why this is wrong except that it is 
forbidden by an authority which is likely to know better than 
I do/ In some cases the considerations which make a particular 
act detrimental to the general good are too complicated to be 
intelligible to the unreflecting or uneducated. A great many 
honest men, for instance, could give no adequate or coherent 
answer to the question why it is wrong to steal. They would 
entirely fail if they attempted to construct a clear and consistent 
theory of Property. In other cases, where the question relates 
to the goodness of the end, the individual must often either lack 
the experience necessary to pronounce upon the matter, or be 
unable to appreciate that the end is good, even when he knows 
what it is. It is only by submission to Authority that a very 
ignorant person can recognize that it is not a waste of time to 
spend many hours a day in study ; and there are probably many 
people besides children who would frankly confess that they 
could not, if it were not forbidden by the Bible, or the Church, 
or general opinion, ' see the harm ' of polygamy. Without some 
measure of submission to Authority in moral matters Society 
could not be kept together. 


I know that there are many persons to whom the very 
suggestion that anybody is ever in his moral action to defer to 
any external authority whatever will present itself as positively 
immoral ; and who will be quite unable to dissociate the con- 
trary thesis from the idea of ' Priestcraft ' or ' State Socialism ' 
(according as the Authority is ecclesiastical or secular), tyranny 
over Consciences, ' spiritual bondage ' and the like. With a view 

Chap, v, vi] EXPLANATIONS 1 75 

to meet such objections it may be desirable to make a few 
additional explanations and reservations : 

1 i) It is a curious fact that the people who assert with peculiar, 
if not exaggerated, emphasis the social origin of the individual Con- 
science are often the people who most strongly repudiate the idea 
of Authority in Ethics. Yet if a man is never to trust any other 
moral consciousness than his own, he ought to distrust even his 
own Conscience, which has been moulded by the moral conscious- 
ness of other men. It is admitted that at least in the period of 
early education a man must accept the undemonstrated assertions 
of the wise the ipse dixit of parent or teacher. But can it be said 
that a man's moral education is always complete because he has 
attained the age of legal manhood ? Are not many people, in 
the moral sphere, children throughout life, and are not the great 
majority of us children in such matters in comparison with the 
Saint or the Sage ? 

(2) Even if it were admitted that the act done in obedience to 
Authority has no moral value in itself, it has consequences ; and 
the good man will wish to avoid the bad consequences to others 
of his wrong acts, even if his own assisted judgement would have 
failed to anticipate them. Everybody admits that it is right to 
obey the Physician though we cannot understand the reasons for 
his advice ; and it is surely not merely in technical matters that 
one man's opinion is likely to be better than another's. 

(3) But it is not true that there is no value in an act done 
from respect for Authority. There will be a moral value in an 
act motived by a desire to do the best, even though a man may 
come to the conclusion that such and such an act is the best 
merely because some one else thinks so. If this were not so, we 
should have to deny all moral value to the acts of whole genera- 
tions whose morality has been to an enormous extent based 
upon obedience to a book or other authority believed to be 
infallible *. 

(4) It must be remembered that the man has already per- 
formed an act of independent moral judgement in choosing his 
authority, in so far as he has chosen it on truly ethical grounds. 

1 Of course the submission, even when nominally absolute, has always in 
practice had limits. 


It was because such and such a man's character or the known 
rules and actual practice of such and such a society or of such 
and such a Religion appealed to himself as the noblest that was 
within his ken that he placed himself under their guidance, even 
when in detail he could not feel confident that they were right. 
To choose one's moral authority wisely is at least the beginning of 
wisdom in the moral sphere. Acceptance of an authority vaguely 
discerned (or at first merely suspected) to be the highest this in 
ultimate analysis would be found to be the real source of a large 
part of the best conduct that the world has known, and must 
still be more or less the case, though the guidance by Authority 
naturally and rightly tends to diminish with the maturity of 
individuals, classes, and races. 

(5) The respect which the judgement of any ethical authority 
ought to command must depend upon the extent to which it 
rests upon really ethical grounds. If another man's advice to 
me is itself dependent upon an authority which I do not respect, 
the value of that advice disappears, however much better or wiser 
I may know a particular adviser to be than myself. For 
instance, the authority of a good man who may recommend such 
and such a practice or rule of action is seriously weakened for 
me if I discover that his judgement is so far enslaved to an 
ecclesiastical system, accepted on non-ethical grounds, that a doubt 
arises whether he recommends it as the result of his own moral 
judgement or moral experience, or merely because he finds it 
prescribed by the Fathers and Canons of the Church, which 
a theory of the Church's infallibility compels him to accept: 
while equally good men who have been brought up in a different 
ecclesiastical tradition seem blind to the moral advantages of the 
practice or the obligation of the rule. 

(6) It is assumed throughout that our acceptance of Authority 
does not, and never can, imply a total abdication of individual 
judgement. Not even the most mechanical moral code could 
possibly be lived out without the constant exercise of such judge- 
ment, and a true moral ideal will emphatically condemn the 
incessant dependence either upon some traditional body of 
Authority or upon a living ' director.' Moreover in the last 
resort, if only the ' voice within ' is clear and decided enough, it 


is a duty to hearken to it, no matter what the weight of con- 
trary Authority. It is only asserted that it is often right for 
a man to act upon the intuitions of others when he has none 
of his own, and sometimes even where his own contrary 
intuitions are weak and confused. The extent to which confi- 
dence in one's own ethical judgement should overrule any weight 
of antagonistic authority is of course as little capable of exact 
definition as any other ethical question which assumes the form 
of a ' how much ' or a ' how far.' 


The aspects of ethical truth which we have been dwelling on 
are, as it appears to me, of great importance in dealing with the 
relation between Morality and Religion. That subject must 
hereafter be considered more at length. But the view which we 
have taken will help us to appreciate certain aspects of that rela- 
tion as it has actually existed in History. It will enable us to 
appreciate and to justify, at least on their purely ethical side, 
two important elements in all the historical religions, and 
especially in Christianity (i) the authority of exceptional 
personalities ; (a) the authority of the religious community. It 
is largely because these influences are so completely ignored in 
the treatment of Morality by professed Philosophers that their 
accounts of the moral life are often so widely removed from the 
facts which History reveals. 

If the moral consciousness is formed and moralized by the 
social environment and particularly the influence of the persons 
in whom the moral capacity of the human soul has reached its 
highest development, if it is right that in all moral judgements 
great weight should be accorded to the authority of the best 
men, sometimes even in preference to the man's own spontaneous 
ideas of right and wrong, when he finds them confused or defec- 
tive, then we are able to justify the reverence with which the 
highest ethical religions of the world have regarded the teaching 
of their founders, and particularly the altogether unique 
authority which Christian Theology has ascribed to the life, 
teaching, and character of Jesus Christ, an authority which is 
often recognized in practice by many who would refuse to accept 


any theological formulation of it. There is no supersession or 
surrender of a man's own moral judgement in ascribing this 
position to Christ, if it is by the individual's own moral judge- 
ment (seconded and confirmed by that of others in whose 
moral insight he believes) that the moral value of the authority 
is discerned. 

But while the principles which have already been laid down 
will fully justify such a submission to the authority of the moral 
consciousness at its highest, it will also suggest the limits of such 
submission. Even in respect of this highest kind of moral 
Authority it is important to bear in mind the limitations within 
which alone it can be morally healthful for individuals or for 
communities to acquiesce in obedience to an external authority 
in conduct. It is clear that such submission can only be morally 
healthful when the authority is accepted, at least in part, upon 
ethical grounds. When a certain stage of intellectual or moral 
development has been reached, it may even be said that the 
acceptance ought to be based solely upon an independent accept- 
ance of the ethical ideal set up by the authority. For the 
individual it may, indeed, be quite reasonable that, when a certain 
moral Authority is once accepted on ethical grounds, respect 
should be paid to it even in details which may not actually 
commend themselves to the private judgement of the individual. 
But this cannot well be permanently the case for the community, 
or for that inner circle of ethical intelligence from which the 
community really derives its highest ethical ideas. By the 
community at large a moral authority can only be healthily 
recognized because and in so far as the social consciousness 
accepts and ratifies the ideal set before it by the authority. 
To accept it beyond this point would put a stop to that indepen- 
dent working of the moral consciousness upon which all ethical 
progress is dependent. And that comes to very much the same 
thing as saying that it is only in respect of the widest and most 
fundamental ethical ideas that we can expect the judgements 
of any ethical teacher permanently to commend themselves to 
the world. Even for the individual the acceptance of moral 
ideas or rules on authority must not and cannot preclude some 
independent exercise of his own moral intelligence. For even 

Chap, v, vii] AUTHORITY OF CHRIST 179 

the most precise moral rules cannot be applied without such an 
exercise of the independent value-judging faculty. A moral 
rule may say ' be kind/ but a person whose reverence for kind- 
ness was wholly based upon authority would be quite unable to 
recognize what particular actions were kind. The results of 
attempting to treat the ipse dixit of some moral code no matter 
how true and venerable as a mere external authority to be 
applied to the particular case after the manner of a parliamen- 
tary Statute has been summed up in the adage that the devil 
can quote Scripture to his purpose. But still more in the case of 
the community it is clear that changing circumstances and events 
are continually bringing about the need for fresh applications 
and developments of existing moral rules, for the revision of old 
applications of such rules, and for passing judgements upon wholly 
new questions of Ethics upon which no rules at present exist. 

The idea of a unique crisis or turning-point in the moral 
history of mankind has nothing in it in the slightest degree incon- 
sistent with a due recognition of the principle of development, 
or even with the idea of perpetual progress in any sense in which 
it is rational to cherish the hope of such progress. It will be 
unnecessary to dwell upon the existence of certain unique crises 
in the evolutionary history of the Universe. Such crises are 
constituted by the beginning of organized life, still more em- 
phatically by the beginnings of consciousness, and (though here 
the crisis must be assigned to a definite era of considerable 
duration rather than to a definite moment of time) to the first 
beginnings of the moral life. It will perhaps be more to the 
purpose if we point to analogous crises in the growth of the 
Sciences. It is quite misleading to treat scientific progress as if 
it consisted in the perpetual revision of traditional views, in the 
constant giving up of old theories, and the acceptance of new 
ones. There are discoveries in the Sciences which constitute 
epochs, and which are practically final. That these discoveries 
should always be open to criticism and be held liable to revision, 
should any need for it present itself, goes without saying, but in 
many cases there is no reason to apprehend that any such 
necessity will occur: nor is it even considered desirable to 
encourage the expectation that it will. 


Copernicus, Newton, Darwin are the names which most con- 
spicuously associate themselves with such epochs. After such 
an epoch there is no going back. Mistakes in detail such heroes 
of scientific achievement have made, but their main ideas have 
not been revised ; there is no reason whatever for thinking that 
they ever will be. Not only so, but such discoveries gradually 
narrow the ground of possible fresh discovery. It may safely be 
said that in the realm of Physics, for instance, there is no room for 
any new discovery of the same magnitude with the discovery of 
the Newtonian Laws. For all time Physics must be based on 
the discovery for which Copernicus prepared the way, and which 
Newton actually made. Equally little room is there, I imagine, 
in Biology for a new idea which can be so new or revolutionary 
as the idea of Darwin in its most general form, apart from the 
details of his theory which are and may long be matter of dis- 
pute. Such parallels may suggest the kind and measure of the 
finality which may reasonably be expected in Ethica That such 
a crisis in the spiritual history of mankind occurred in connexion 
with the rise of the Christian Religion, is almost universally 
admitted; and it is the general verdict of sober criticism that, 
when all due allowance is made for the long evolution of ideas 
which prepared the way for that crisis and for the existence of 
a certain amount of development even in the earliest records of 
its Founder's life, that crisis was chiefly due to the personality 
of that Founder. Considering the enormous place in the entire 
moral life of the world that is occupied by the idea of the 
paramount authority of the teaching of Christ, it will not, 
I trust, be thought an irrelevant digression in an ethical treatise 
definitely to raise the question whether there is anything 
opposed to a due recognition of the ideal of ethical Autonomy 
in the recognition of a certain finality and completeness in the 
' Christian ideal/ 


It is clear that in many senses of the word there can be no 
finality in Ethics. The details of right conduct are obviously 
relative to changing circumstances of time and place. So long 
as we confine ourselves to means, every new piece of knowledge 


in the world alters the details of many duties. It became wrong 
for a busy man to travel from London to Oxford by coach as 
soon as a quicker way of reaching his destination was invented. 
And discoveries as to the relation of means to ends discoveries 
in Physiology, in Psychology, in Economics are continually 
revolutionizing whole regions of duty. It is needless to give 
illustrations of the way in which increased knowledge of 
physical and social laws has modified our conception of our 
duty to the poor, to the sick, to the insane, to children and the 
like. And it is not only in respect of the means, but also in 
respect of the end, that we must expect indefinite change and 
development. If the view taken in these pages be well founded, 
duty consists in promoting the true good of all human beings in 
proportion to their intrinsic worth or capacity. But wherein 
does that true good consist? At any given moment in the 
history of the world the individual (in so far as he relies upon 
his own judgement) must fix for himself the content of that good 
by his own judgements of value. But, even if his intuitions of 
value were incapable of improvement, his power of passing 
such judgements would still be relative to his experience. He 
can only estimate rightly the value of such things as he knows. 
But human experience is constantly growing. In all departments 
of human activity we are continually hearing of the new this or 
the new that the new humour, the new Trade Unionism, the new 
Art, the music of the future, and so on. Each of these new ideas 
introduces fresh moral problems, which cannot possibly be 
settled in detail by appealing to any existing canons, any more 
than it would be possible to apply the old rules of tactics to the 
altered conditions of modern warfare. It is not that any old 
rule or principle has necessarily been found to be wrong, but 
there is no rule at all which is applicable to the new case. The 
most gifted moral nature cannot possibly say whether the listen- 
ing to Wagner's music forms an element in true human good till 
he has heard at least a little of it. The question must be 
settled by a fresh exercise of the value-judging faculty. In 
this way and in this sense our ideal of human life is constantly 
growing and expanding in its actual content. The proposition 
that it is good to be charitable remains as true as it ever was ; 


bnt Charity must now mean promoting for our neighbours a 
very different kind of life than any that could have been lived 
in the Palestine of the Christian era. 

Now, in view of these considerations, it is clear that it is only 
in respect of the most general ethical principles that any finality 
can be claimed for the Christian ideal. The law of Brother- 
hood the supreme duty of promoting the true good for every 
human being may, indeed, be treated as occupying in Ethics 
very much the position which the law of universal gravitation 
occupies in Physics. 1 The law must be accepted simply in the 
last resort because it appeals to our Moral Reason, and only so 
long as it does appeal to the Moral Reason of successive ages. 
But it is as gratuitous to contemplate the coming of a time 
when it shall be superseded as it would be to expect the advent 
of a second Newton who will overthrow and supersede the dis- 
coveries of the first. And yet, as we have seen, this law would 
mean comparatively little for us apart from some idea of what 
the good is. It would mean little to assert the finality of the 
Christian ideal if we did not include in our conception of that 
ideal some conception of what the good is that is to be promoted 
for each individual soul. And for the central elements of Christ's 
estimate of goods the supreme value of love, the superiority 
of the spiritual to the sensual, the value of personal purity, the 
subordination of sensuous gratification to higher things without 
any ascetic condemnation of natural and healthy pleasure there 
is every reason to expect as much permanence as for the law 
of Brotherhood itself. But from the nature of the case it is 
impossible to define more exactly the line which separates the 
essential from the unessential, the permanent from the tem- 
porary, the germ from the full-grown organism. Within the 
limits thus indicated there is room for a very large development 
in the moral ideal. The attitude of Christians towards intel- 
lectual and aesthetic culture has, for instance, varied considerably 

1 How far this idea can be found in other ethical systems earlier than, or 
independent of Christianity, it is not necessary for us here to consider. 
Broadly speaking, I believe the answer to be that it is to be found in other 
ethical systems, but side by side with a great many ethical ideas which are 
quite inconsistent with it. 

Chap, v, viii] RITSCHLIANISM 183 

at different times in the history of the Church. That develop- 
ment has taken place in the past is a matter of history. That it 
will take place, and ought to take place, in the future results 
from all that has been said about the impossibility of detailed 
finality in any ideal, the necessity for the constant exercise of 
the value-judging consciousness, and the consequent need for 
development in the ethical code. Only in so far as it is supple- 
mented by this principle of development can we regard the 
association of a moral ideal with a certain epoch and a single 
great historical Personality in the past as morally healthful and 
intellectually defensible. That Christianity accepts, and always 
has accepted, this principle of development through its doctrine 
of the Holy Spirit would be a leading topic in any reasoned 
apologetic for Christianity as the absolute Religion. 

The dominant school of liberal Christian Theology in Ger- 
many the school which takes its name from Lotze's great 
disciple and colleague, Ritschl rightly bases the claim of Christ 
and of Christianity upon the permanent truth and unique value 
of the ideal taught by Christ in work, act, and character 1 , as recog- 
nized by the value -judgements of the individual moral conscious- 
ness. That school, rightly to my mind, regards Christian dogma 
as the progressive effort of the Christian consciousness to express 
in the philosophical language of the time its sense of the supreme 
and unique value to humanity of the moral and religious con- 
sciousness of Christ, and makes its fidelity to that idea the 
ultimate test of dogmatic truth. But unfortunately the 
Ritschlians have exaggerated this ' Christo-centric ' tendency in 
a way which is as inconsistent with historical facts as it is with 
sound ethical theory. Their tendency to disparage Metaphysic, 
whether in the form of modern Philosophy or of ancient dogma ; 
their suicidal attempt to rest the truth not merely of Christianity 
but of Theism wholly and solely upon the emotional experience 
of the individual Christian soul ; their depreciation of all know- 
ledge of God such as is derivable from philosophical reflection or 
is contained in other historical Religions, it would be irrelevant 

1 Including of course his religious consciousness, his sense of union with 
the Father and his teaching about Him, of which it would here be out of 
place to speak more in detail. 


here to criticize in detail. What it does concern us here to insist 
upon is that an Ethic is fundamentally erroneous which refuses 
to recognize the necessary and healthful interaction between the 
moral consciousness of the individual and that of the community 
the need for constant development in the ethical ideal, the 
impossibility of a final or supreme ethical revelation which is 
not also a continuous and progressive revelation. On ethical 
grounds alone we may say that the doctrine of the Son requires, 
as its indispensable complement, a doctrine of the Holy Ghost. 

It must not be supposed that in asserting that the true ground 
for the acceptance of the Christian ideal is the fact that it com- 
mends itself to the moral consciousness we are in any way 
disparaging the importance of the life and teaching of Christ in 
the moral evolution of mankind, or the value of a knowledge of 
that life and teaching to individuals and communities at the 
present day. The Conscience of the average man is quite capable 
of accepting ideals which he could never have thought out for 
himself. The moral level once attained by a community can 
only be kept up by the continued operation of the influences 
which raised it to that level. It is true that ideas m&y some- 
times live when their origin is forgotten. But even in the 
region of Physical Science education consists largely in the 
history of past discovery. And there is this difference between 
scientific ideas and moral ones, that moral ideas and ideals are 
far less separable from the personality of those who have 
taught them. The strongest ethical influences are personal 
influences. To say that the truth of the moral ideal presented 
by the teaching of Christ must rest upon the appeal that it 
makes to the moral consciousness of mankind is a very different 
thing from saying that the influence which that ideal has exer- 
cised and still exercises over the world has been or ever can be 
separated from the influence exercised by the character and 
personality of Jesus. It is as well established a fact of history 
and of sober criticism that the Christian ideal, in the form in which 
it would be recognized by any modern Christian, even if he be 
a Ritschlian Theologian, does represent much ethical teaching not 
explicitly to be found in the teaching of Christ, as that the develop- 
ment has flowed from that moral new birth of the world which is 


to be associated with his work. It is childish to dispute whether 
the fountain-head or the stream be the more important to the 
thirsty traveller ; nor need a due recognition of the fact that 
the main stream of Christian ethical thought can be traced back 
directly to the historical Christ prevent us from recognizing 
that it has received not unimportant accessions by the way. 
The very capacity for absorbing into itself what is most valuable 
in ethical teaching outside itself constitutes one of the chief 
qualifications of the Christian * deposit ' of ethical truth to be 
the basis of a universal Ethic and a universal Religion. 


From the point of view here suggested, the notion of an 
authority residing in the Christian community, so far from 
being regarded as part of that ' Aberglaube ' which it is the 
business of an emancipated Theology to sweep away, will pre- 
sent itself as a vital condition of our being able to recognize in 
any historical Religion a claim to finality and to universality. 
The authority of the Church in ethical as in religious matters 
means the authority of the Christian consciousness the growing 
and expanding moral consciousness of those who in the full and 
deliberate exercise of their own faculty of moral discernment 
have recognized in the fundamental Christian ideas the highest 
moral truth which the Spirit of God has revealed to the world. 
What from the point of view of the individual is Authority 
becomes, as I have already insisted, when looked upon from the 
social point of view, liberty or Autonomy. The ideal purpose of 
the visible Christian society is to serve as the organ of this 
consciousness. The Church in its ultimate idea is a society for 
the promotion of the highest ideal of life, under the guidance of 
a true theory of the relation of man to God. All that has been 
said about the existence of many conflicting social ideals, repre- 
senting a variety of distinguishable though mutually interacting 
* societies/ within each geographical or political * society ' tends to 
emphasize the necessity for a society specially concerned with the 
promotion of the highest life. That each and every one of the 
societies commonly known as Churches have fallen very far short 
of being adequate organs for this purpose is too obvious a propo- 


sition to need historical justification. They have all been more 
or less imperfect realizations of a high ideal. In dealing with 
the State we have long found it possible to believe in the divine 
right of Government without believing in the divine right of any 
particular ruler or any particular constitution. We have found 
it possible to recognize side by side a divine right of Govern- 
ment and a divine right of Rebellion to recognize the duty of 
the individual to submit himself to the society, and to recognize 
none the less that that submission has limits. It is high time 
that a similar mode of thinking were applied to the relations 
between the individual and Society in all its forms and all its 
organs and not least in that most important organ of all 
(according to the true ideal of it) which we call the Church 
or the Churches. 

All that has hitherto been said as to the limit of the authority 
which the society can claim over the individual needs to be 
remembered and emphasized with peculiar distinctness in regard 
to the religious society. A prejudice against the very word 
Authority has sprung in part from its confusion, both by friend 
and foe, with the totally different idea of Infallibility. All that has 
been said about the right and the duty of individual judgement, 
about the necessity for progress, of self-assertion in individuals 
and in societies, about the process by which the moral discoveries 
of the individual spirit are appropriated and enforced by the 
community, constitutes a protest against that confusion. Some- 
times the social consciousness itself is misrepresented by the 
official organization whose function it is to serve as its expression : 
sometimes it is the right and duty of the individual to rebel 
against what really is for the moment the dominant ideal of his 
society. But, all the same, we must recognize the idea of an 
ethical authority residing in the society, and the need of a 
definite organ or organs for the expression of that authority, as 
a counterpoise and complement to the authority which is rightly 
ascribed to the highest embodiments of the moral consciousness 
in the past. For Christians the authority of the Church is 
required as the necessary complement and development of the 
unique and paramount authority which with ample justification 
they have ascribed to its Founder. 


The true ideal of human nature is undoubtedly the ideal which 
has been expressed by the word Autonomy. The ideal is that 
each individual should do what in the exercise of his own con- 
sciousness he sees to be right. But the education of the moral 
consciousness up to this level is only possible through the action 
of a strong social Conscience, and the recognition of its authority 
by the individual, up to the point at which his present knowledge, 
experience, and ethical insight require its support. It is only 
through the principle of Authority that the individual enters 
into the accumulated ethical inheritance bequeathed to him by 
the past. Apart from social education, each individual would 
have to start at the level of the savage, and by his own unassisted 
efforts he could scarcely avoid sinking even below that level. 
It is the object of social education to quicken and develope the 
individual's power of independent ethical thought and feeling to 
an extent which shall make him not so much independent of 
Authority as unconscious of its influence except in so far as he sees 
the necessity for going beyond it. If in a sense the individual in 
the course of his moral growth becomes less and less dependent 
upon social Authority, in a sense he becomes more and more 
identified with it. The commands to which he once submitted 
as mere external commands now become to him the commands 
of his own higher self : he who was the subject over against an 
actual legislator now becomes himself the legislator as well as 
the subject legislator for himself and, as a member of the 
society, legislator for others. But this very growth of inde- 
pendent ethical power will have fitted him and compelled him 
to develope existing ideals further than they have been de- 
veloped, and even to correct and contradict them when necessary. 
Even to the last this ideal of Autonomy is one which no indi- 
vidual can fully reach : in a sense it is one which he ought not 
to reach. The limitations of his knowledge and experience, 
sheer want of time for enquiry and reflection, the impossibility 
of becoming an expert in a hundred different directions, must 
compel him to take on trust the judgements of others as to 
means, and to a large extent even as regards elements in a true 
ideal of the good. He must continue, he ought to continue, 
sensitive to the ethical ideas of the people about him, of the 


society as a whole, and, above all, of the best people in it ; but he 
ought also to criticize them and to react upon them. The attempt 
to deny or ignore the principles of Authority in Ethics altogether 
would mean moral anarchy : to prohibit the individual from 
going beyond, and, if need be, rebelling against the accepted 
moral standard, would mean ethical stagnation and abject 
' heteronomy.' In truth the ideal of Authority and the ideal of 
Autonomy both become absurd and self-contradictory if either 
is pushed to the point of excluding the other. Reliance on 
Authority can only justify itself by the assumption that there 
exist individuals or societies which are ethically autonomous, 
and there could be no Autonomy in the society if there were no 
relatively autonomous individuals, or if they exercised no 
authority over their fellows. 



THE relations of Moral Philosophy to Metaphysic may be 
conveniently treated under three heads: the two subjects are 
connected : 

(i) Because any true and adequate account of the nature 
of Morality must involve certain metaphysical postulates or 

(a) Because some of the conclusions of Metaphysic, even 
though Morality might in a sense exist if they were not true, are 
of high importance to Morality and seriously affect our attitude 
towards it ; so that, if not postulates of any Morality whatever, 
they are postulates of a rational and coherent ethical system. 

(3) Because Moral Philosophy involves certain metaphysical 
consequences, or supplies some of the data which it is the 
business of Metaphysic to interpret. 

Like every other branch of knowledge Moral Philosophy 
implies or assumes certain ultimate conceptions which it is the 
business of the Metaphysician to examine. But we do not 
usually consider it necessary to begin the study of a Science by 
an enquiry into its ultimate metaphysical implications. Mathe- 
matical Science assumes that there are such things as space and 
quantity, and that our ideas about their nature constitute in 
some sense knowledge of Reality. Physics assume the existence 
of matter and force : Psychology assumes the existence of mind 
or consciousness. The ultimate meaning of all these conceptions 
is matter of grave metaphysical controversy ; and yet the 


Physicist at least, if not to the same extent the Psychologist, 
is content to leave metaphysical controversy severely alone. In 
the same way the ultimate nature of Morality and its relation to 
other kinds or elements or aspects of Reality are questions 
which open up the most momentous metaphysical issues. It 
is no doubt possible simply to assume the existence of the moral 
consciousness, and to analyse its contents. That is the task with 
which for the most part we have so far been concerned, though 
at times (as for instance in the chapter on Reason and Feeling) 
it has been impossible altogether to maintain the attitude of 
indifference to metaphysical problems. And that task repre- 
sents, I believe, the primary aim of Moral Philosophy. That 
it is a possible task, the object of a possible Science, is proved by 
the existence of many books on the subject in which there is 
hardly any explicit metaphysical discussion : while, even in 
those writers who are most in the habit of insisting upon the 
intimate relation between Moral Philosophy and Metaphysic, 
we do not find as a rule that their arguments turn on any 
metaphysical considerations so long as they are engaged on 
the questions which have so far occupied our attention. Let 
the question be * What is the moral criterion ? ', * Is pleasure 
the chief good ? ', ' Is Casuistry possible ? ', ' Why is it a duty 
to speak the truth ? ', or the like so long as they are dis- 
cussing matters like these, we do not find that their arguments 
turn upon any explicit metaphysical assumption : they are 
arguments of precisely the same kind as those which are em- 
ployed by writers combining the same ethical views with a 
different metaphysical basis or by their opponents in support of 
opposite ethical theories. Metaphysic does not contain in itself 
the solution of any of these questions ; and it requires no meta- 
physical knowledge to follow the arguments commonly employed 
in discussing them. It is no doubt true that the views of such 
writers as Kant or Green upon such questions imply certain 
metaphysical presuppositions ; but only in the sense in which 
every Science assumes metaphysical postulates. Morality, as 
understood by them, would have no reality or validity if certain 
metaphysical theories inconsistent with their own could be re- 
garded as true. But then speculatively these writers would also 


hold that the same or certain other metaphysical positions are 
inconsistent with the ascription of any objective significance to 
the truths of Mathematics or Physical Science. In so far as such 
writers have used metaphysical propositions for the determina- 
tion of purely ethical questions, their Metaphysic has often proved 
a source of error and confusion rather than of enlightenment, 
as for instance when Green argues that pleasure being in time 
cannot satisfy a self which is out of time. So long as the Moral 
Philosopher confines himself to this analysis of the moral con- 
sciousness, he is only forced to make metaphysical assumptions 
in the sense in which the Mathematician makes metaphysical 
assumptions in asserting that we know certain things about 
space and quantity and number. 

Are we then to say that the real connexion between Moral 
Philosophy and Metaphysic is no more intimate than the con- 
nexion between Metaphysic and any of the so-called * positive ' 
Sciences ? If such an assertion were well founded, it would 
certainly imply that the majority of Moral Philosophers have 
been the victims of some strange illusion or some extraordinary 
accident. There are not unimportant Moral Philosophers who 
have written practically nothing on Metaphysic, but theirs are 
hardly the greatest names in the history of Moral Philosophy : 
and there are few Metaphysicians who have not dealt with 
Ethics in however incidental a fashion. The reason of this is 
not far to seek. Speculatively, indeed, it is impossible to deny 
a very close connexion between sound ideas on the subject- 
matter of Metaphysics and sound ideas about the subject-matter 
of Mathematics. Sensationalism, and perhaps some other forms 
of Empiricism, deny all meaning or objective validity to those 
necessities of thought with which Mathematics are concerned. 
But practically we find that a man's views as a Metaphysician 
exercise no influence upon his treatment of Mathematics. 
Mathematicians of the most opposite views, or of no views 
at all, about the ultimate nature of space and time are content to 
assume the truth of the same axioms ; and the different sense in 
which (if they are Metaphysicians at all) they interpret these 
ultimate assumptions exercises no practical effect upon the con- 
clusions which they reach as Mathematicians. It is the same 


with the Physicist, and possibly even with the Biologist 1 , so 
long as they really confine themselves to the subject-matter 
of their respective Sciences. It ought theoretically to be the 
same with the Psychologist, though in his case the isolation 
of the psychological problem from the metaphysical involves 
a degree of abstraction which in practice only a trained Meta- 
physician, if any one, can keep up 2 , and which it is perhaps not 
very desirable to keep up. Nobody in practice doubts that it is 
shorter to go across the grass in a quadrangle than to walk 
round two sides of it, no matter how sceptical or sensationalistic 
may be his theory of space. No physical law is ever in practice 
questioned on the ground of some idealistic or sceptical theory 
about matter 3 ; nor does the most materialistic of psychologists 
who has passed beyond the stage of elementary confusion ever 
ignore in practice the difference between a wave of ether and 
a perception of blue. In Ethics it is far otherwise. Particular 
theories about the nature of knowledge, or of matter, or of mind 
are constantly made into grounds for the denial of the Moralist's 
primary assumption, the existence of the moral consciousness 
and the validity of its dictates ; or at least for admitting them 
only in a sense which revolutionizes the meaning of every proposi- 
tion included in the Science itself. So long as he is content to 
assume the reality and authority of the moral consciousness, 
the Moral Philosopher can ignore Metaphysic ; but, if the reality 

1 Here, indeed, at a certain point metaphysical differences (conscious or 
unconscious) about the nature of Causality are likely to emerge, but they 
need not emerge till an advanced stage has been reached in the study of 
the subject. 

2 The same remark may certainly be made with regard to some of the more 
speculative questions to which the higher Physics lead up, but the ideal of the 
two Sciences is that they should be as distinct as possible. The uncertainty 
of division only exists when the Physicist's conclusions are speculative. So 
long as that is the case, the Physicist is always liable to become, or to be 
accused by the Metaphysician of having become, a Metaphysician without 
knowing it. Physical facts, when once established, have simply to be 
accepted by the Metaphysician. To interpret them in their relation to 
other aspects of Reality is his business, and not that of the Physicist. 

8 The tendency of Physicists to deny the possibility of an actio in distans 
may perhaps be accounted for by the unrecognized influence of metaphysical 


of Morals or the validity of ethical truth be once brought into 
question, the attack can only be met by a thorough-going enquiry 
into the nature of Knowledge and of Reality ; we have to clear up 
the relation between the particular sort or aspect of Reality 
with which the Moralist deals and all Reality, between ethical 
truth and truth in general. In practice it is hardly possible 
to write many lines about some very fundamental questions 
of Ethics from which some people would not dissent on meta- 
physical grounds. 

Each of the special Sciences deals with some particular aspect 
of Reality taken in abstraction from the rest. In Moral Philo- 
sophy, in so far as we are considering the nature of the moral 
consciousness apart from other aspects of Being, we are still in 
a sense abstract ; we are dealing with a departmental Science ; 
but the discussion cannot practically proceed far without touch- 
ing upon the most ultimate of all questions. We are dealing 
with such a large and fundamental aspect of ultimate Reality 
that it is practically impossible to deal with it thoroughly with- 
out taking a very important step towards the determination 
of our attitude towards Reality as a whole. It is impossible 
that our views on the ultimate problems of Ethics should not be 
influenced by our attitude towards Reality as a whole, or that 
our view of Reality as a whole should not be influenced by our 
attitude towards Morality. It is not from any doubt about the 
importance to Ethics of certain metaphysical ideas that the 
treatment of our subject was not preceded by an exhaustive 
enquiry into the nature of Knowledge and Reality ; but rather 
because it would have been extremely difficult to draw the line 
between the specially ethical side of Metaphysics and the whole 
of that Science. The metaphysical * prolegomena of Ethics ' tend 
to become identical with the Science of Metaphysic itself, or 
at least with the main outlines of it. All that can be attempted 
here, consistently with the plan of this work, is to indicate, 
without fully justifying, the metaphysical positions which in my 
view are necessary either as presuppositions or as corollaries 
of a reasonable system of Ethics. 




The first point of contact between Ethics and Metaphysics 
lies, as we have seen, in the fact that the former Science involves 
certain metaphysical presuppositions. There are two directions 
in which ethical conclusions such as those at which we have 
arrived might be directly l impugned on metaphysical grounds. 
The attack might be based upon a theory of the nature of 
knowledge or upon a theory as to the nature of that self with 
which in Morality we are concerned. It need hardly be said 
that the two lines of objection are very closely connected. We 
will look at the matter first from the epistemological point of 

The tendency of all theories which make experience the sole 
source of knowledge is to undermine belief in that element 
of our moral ideas which most obviously cannot be derived from 
experience : and that is, if we are right, precisely the element 
which constitutes the essence of Morality. By the doctrine that 
all knowledge comes from experience is very likely to be meant 
the doctrine that alMl]^3Y^reJJy_jg^^ JibouLJJiings^is^the 
feelhjgsJJiat they give us : Empiricism does not perhaps in every 
sense of the word necessarily involve Sensationalism, but the 
historical ' school of Ejcgsrjence,' i n proportion to its thoroughness 
and self-consistency, has tended to identify experience withjnere 
sensation. Now if we know ultimately nothing but feeling, the 
knowledge of right and wrong, so far as it is knowledge of any- 
thing real, must also be based upon a kind of feeling, or rather, 
it (like every other kind of knowledge) must be, at bottom, 
nothing but a mode of feeling. The attempt may, indeed, be 
made to show that moral approbation represents a specific 
feeling different in kind from all other feelings: but the up- 
holders of a ' Moral Sense ' wholly fail to show why this feeling, 
however distinct, however much sui generis, should have any 
better claim to be attended to than any other feelings. Of 
course the constructive Moralist of the Moral Sense school 2 

1 Later in the chapter I shall deal with the metaphysical or theological 
questions which have an indirect bearing on their validity. 

' 2 Such a man as Hutcheson. The ultimate meaning of Shaftesbury is more 


really takes his subjective feeling of ' approbation ' to be an 
index of some objective reality, but this is just what he has 
no right to do so long as he attempts to analyse all knowledge 
into mere feeling. Mere feeling can testify to nothing beyond 
itself. Feeling g^ain e*m appeal only to him,, who feels jfr: the 
Sensationalist cannot logically recognize any ideal of what men 
ought to feel, whether this or that man actually feels it or not. 
As long as feeling is treated simply as feeling, it is arbitrary to 
assign to one feeling a higher value than another for any other- 
reason than its actual intensity or the actual strength of the 
impulse which it excites: all distinctions of quality between 
feelings imply a reference to an ideal or rational standard which 
mere feeling can neither set up nor acknowledge. The logical 
Sensationalist must also be a Hedonist, and an egoistic Hedonist 1 . 
He may (with Hume) recognize as a psychological fact that 
in persons of a certain mental constitution the pleasures and 
pains of others have a tendency to cause pleasure and pain 
by sympathy : but this (as it is Hume's great merit to have 
recognized) constitutes no reason for attending to these sympa- 
thetic pleasures or pains, or allowing oneself to be influenced by 
them beyond the point to which one is inclined to go by one's 
natural taste for this particular source of pleasurable feeling. 
The consistent Sensationalist can know nothing of an absolute 
or objective Morality, of intrinsic value, of moral obligation. 2 

Even if Empiricism does not take the form of pure Sensation- 
alism even when it recognizes (that is to say) that knowledge 
is something more than subjective feeling it still puts great 
difficulties in the way of a constructive system of Ethics. So 
long as Reality is supposed to reside in ' things ' conceived 

1 It is, indeed, possible for the merely * naturalistic ' Moralist to avoid 
Hedonism by defining the good as that which we actually desire, and 
measuring the amount of the good by the strength of the desire, without 
assuming that that something is always pleasure, but the distinction between 
desire and feeling is a difficult one for the Sensationalist. 

2 Strictly speaking, of course, even the calculating pursuit of a maximum 
pleasure would be impossible if knowledge were mere sensation. I am 
assuming that the Sensationalist does not see that his position is destructive 
to the possibility of any knowledge whatever, even of what is necessary 
in order to aim at a maximum of pleasure on the whole. 



of as" having their nature altogether independently of our minds 
or of any mind (even though it may be recognized that the 
knowing mind must possess powers other than a mere capacity 
for feeling), it remains difficult to recognize truth or validity 
in a kind of knowledge for which obviously no such basis 
can be found in ' external ' Nature. It may no doubt be 
contended that the Empiricist is not necessarily a Materialist. 
He may acknowledge the existence of mind and of mental states 
in himself and others ; these are facts of experience no less than 
outward ' things. 1 But if nothing is supposed to be knowable 
about mind except { mental states ' known by immediate ex- 
perience and abstracted from all reference to any Reality beyond 
themselves, there is no possibility of comparing these * states' 
with any ideal standard not given in experience, and the ' states 
of mind ' tend to be valued merely in proportion to their ex- 
perienced intensity, and that is very much the same thing 
as valuing them merely as sources of pleasure or pain: and, 
so far as this is the case, the Empiricist's position in regard 
to Morality becomes identical with that of the Sensationalist. 
Indeed, strictly speaking, so long as he really confines himself 
to experience, the question of value cannot arise at all. The 
Empiricist can know by experience whether things are pleasant : 
he cannot attach any meaning to the assertion that pleasure 
is a good unless he understands it to mean that people actually 
do pursue pleasure. We have already seen that no accumulation 
of experiences of pleasure and pain can give us the ultimate 
major premiss which is implied by all Morality ; from * is ' to 
' ought/ from existence to value, from the actual to the good, 
there js no way by the road of ^experienced No doubt It is 
possible to take up the position that this one particular kind of 
knowledge has a different origin from that of any other know- 
ledge: that other knowledge does, indeed, come only from 
experience of external and material ' things/ but that in this 
one function the human soul is in contact with a Reality which 
is not material. And, in so far as the Empiricist passes into 
the dualistic Realist in so far, that is, as he recognizes the 
activity of the mind in knowledge and the reality of mind side 
by side with that of matter the resulting Metaphysic ceases to 

Chap. 4, ii] IDEALISM AND ETHICS 197 

have any direct or immediate tendency to undermine the reality 
and authority of a non-empirical l moral law, except in so far 
as its inherent unsoundness may end in its own collapse, and so 
in the collapse of any ethical superstructure which may be built 
upon it. All that we can say is that the more moral judgements 
are treated as a solitary exception to the rest of our knowledge, 
the more difficulty there is in explaining their character and 
justifying their validity ; and the more is suspicion apt to be 
excited that, in assigning them an origin so different from that 
of all other recognized knowledge, we are seeking to bolster 
up a mysterious, 'mystical/ or unintelligible theory in some 
practical interest. 

The more fully it is recognized that in all knowledge even in 
knowledge of the most ordinary matter of fact mind is active 
or creative or constitutive of Reality and not merely a passive 
recipient of impressions from the outside, the more fully it is 
recognized that in knowledge the mind is building up or con- 
tributing an essential factor to Reality, and not merely recognizing 
a Reality which is what it is quite independently of itself or of any 
other subject, so much the more intelligible does it become that 
there should be a truth which has no external ' thing-in-itself ' 
corresponding to it, a knowledge which is not derived from mere 
' sensible experience/ a Reality or aspect of Reality which cannot 
be expressed in the language of merely physical Science or 
of mere psychological experience. The bare supposition that 
there is an ' external ' and independent thing behind our ideas 
about the thing, that the 'active powers' of the mind merely 
recognize what is already there ' in the thing/ independently of 
such recognition by itself or any other mind, has no doubt by itself 
nothing in it to provoke distrust of the conclusions to which the 
Moralist may be led by an examination of the moral conscious- 
ness. At the same time a position much more favourable to 
a cordial acceptance of moral objectivity is reached when from 
admitting the activity of mind in the recognition of the objects 

1 Of course I do not mean to deny that all moral ideas, like all other 
ideas, are derived from human ' experience ' if that word is used in a suffi- 
ciently wide sense -to include the power of building up knowledge and 
ideals which are something other than immediate presentation. 


of our knowledge we pass on to the view that these objects exist 
only for mind, and have no reality of their own apart from 
mind. Hence the imperishable value of the Kantian analysis of 
our knowledge, which shows that those special properties which 
the plain man regards as constituting the very essence of the 
' thing ' as it is apart from mind are really a creation of mind 
and unintelligible apart from it that the ' oneness,' the 
i substantiality/ the * causality/ the ' actuality/ the ' quantity/ 
which to common-sense seem wholly independent of mind, turn 
out on reflection to be mental relations unintelligible and in- 
conceivable except in reference to a knowing mind, so that the 
things that we know have no independent existence apart from 
our own or some other experience of them. It is true that Kant 
acknowledged, like all Idealists, the necessity of sensible ex- 
perience for the constitution of this phenomenal world : though, 
unlike most of his successors, he assumed that the sensations 
which (with the relations) go to constitute the world as we know 
it are derived from an unknown and unknowable world of things 
in themselves. But these spaceless and timeless ' things-in- 
themselves ' of Kant have so little in common with the ordinary 
man's idea of ' matter ' l that the practical effect of this modified 
or 'critical' Idealism is for Morality much the same as that 
of the more thorough-going Idealism which absolutely denies 
the existence of ' things ' which are not either rnind or essentially 
relative to mind. And when it is recognized that the very 
' things ' which the plain man is apt to take as the absolute 
antithesis of thought, the very ' matter ' beside which all mere 
ereations of the] mind are apt to appear unreal and phantasmal, 
&re nevertheless in a true sense the ' work of the mind/ the 
difficulty disappears of realizing that moral judgements may be 
none the less true and trustworthy, because they are not ' induc- 
tions from experience/ or of discerning in the Moral Law a reality 
or validity which is none the less real because it is ideal. Idealism 
in Metaphysics, though not logically necessary to Idealism in 
Ethics, is its natural support and ally. Such a Metaphysic 
is, as leading up to the recognition of the activity of mind in 

1 At certain moments Kant himself is disposed to identify the 'thing-in- 
itself ' with God, or the world as it is for God. 


knowledge, the natural groundwork and basis of a Moral Philo- 
sophy which is to be proof against sceptical objections. In 
Ethics, as in many other branches of knowledge, the plain man 
who is content to know particular things without knowing the 
ultimate meaning and basis of knowledge itself, can get along 
without any Metaphysic at all ; but when we are confronted 
by difficulties or objections based upon a bad Metaphysic, the 
only solution of them must be found in a better one. And, 
when once the common-sense knowledge of Morality begins 
to pass into a systematic study of Ethics, these objections are 
likely to meet us very early and very persistently. There may 
be a practical Morality, or even a more or less scientific attempt 
to analyse and formulate practical Ethics, without Metaphysic, 
but a purely ethical Science which attempts to avoid Metaphysic 
must correspond very imperfectly with our idea of Philosophy. 
A sound theory of Morality implies a sound theory of know- 


From another point of view our metaphysical difficulties may 
take the form of doubts about the reality of that self which 
is presupposed by every constructive Morality. And the answer to 
those doubts must be the same which has to be made to empirical 
theories of knowledge. To show that in talking about a self we 
are talking about something real, we must begin by proving that 
the existence of a continuous self is implied in all knowledge. 
Knowledge comes to us piece by piece ; and, if we cannot treat 
the successive moments of our conscious life as successive moments 
of a continuously existing self, these successive experiences can 
never be built up into a single world. Deny the reality of the 
self, and you have no ground for believing in the existence of 
a world which is only known on the assumption of that reality. 
Or, from a slightly different point of view, we may urge that 
objects are known to us only as the correlative of a subject ; at 
least therefore we may contend that the subject is as real as the 
object, even if we do not (with the thorough-going Idealist) 
go on to infer that the object exists only in relation to, or 
as the ' other ' of. a subject. Given the existence of a self which 


cannot be broken up into a succession of isolated feelings or 
ideas or psychical atoms of any kind, and which cannot be 
treated as the mere attribute or accident of a material organism, 
Morality becomes possible. The actions of the individual can be 
treated as the work of a single self which has a definite character 
of its own, a spiritual character which expresses itself in those 
actions, and which is susceptible of spiritual changes and 
amenable to spiritual influences. 

And something more must be implied than simply the 
existence of the self and its activity in knowledge. It is a pre- 
supposition of all Morality that the self is the cause of its own 
actions. In what sense precisely this must be asserted we shall 
have to consider further in our chapter on Free-will. Meanwhile 
I need only notice in passing that this postulate of Ethics is 
implicitly or explicitly denied by two schools by the school 
which regards the self as a mere accident or attribute or bye- 
product of material processes (a view which cannot be further 
discussed in this place), and by the school which so completely 
merges Will in Reason and the individual Reason in the uni- 
versal Reason that there ceases to be any difference between the 
acts of the man and those events in Nature or those actions of 
other men l for which no one dreams of holding the individual 
himself to be in any sense ' responsible/ All alike natural 
events, the actions popularly spoken of as those of other men, 

1 This objection is not removed by the simple admission that the mind that 
makes Reality is Will. Schopenhauer, while he avoids the mistake of identi- 
fying the Absolute with Reason, destroys the ethical value of his position by 
so completely identifying the individual with the universal Will that he* 
regards the individual's sufferings as a just punishment for the original sin 
committed by the universal unconscious Will in giving birth to consciousness 
and so to the world, before he, the individual sufferer, was born a position 
to which orthodox Theologians have sometimes approximated in their des- 
perate attempts to justify immoral theories of Atonement. Schopenhauer 
quotes with approbation Calderon's saying, that * the greatest crime of 
man is that he ever was born * (The World as Will and Idea, trans, by Haldane 
and Kemp, I, pp. 328, 458). Where a man is made in some transcendental 
sense responsible for the sins which he did not commit, the practical effect 
is to relieve him from responsibility for those which he did commit. Von 
Hartmann has pointed out that Schopenhauer's acceptance of Kant's 
'noumenal freedom' in Ethics implies the existence of an individual self 
which is not recognized by his general Metaphysic. 

Chap.i,iii] AN ACTIVE SELF 201 

and his own individual actions become according to this view 
mere happenings of which he is conscious but of which he is not 
the cause, or of which he is only the cause in the sense in which he 
may equally be called the cause of all other happenings in Nature. 
By this school the most splendid compliments are indeed paid to 
c the Ego/ The Ego makes * Nature/ but only in the sense that 
it knows Nature in the sense, that is, that apart from know- 
ledge there would be no Nature. The self makes Nature not 
because it determines of what sort Nature shall be, but just 
because it cannot help Nature being what it is. The very 
identity of principle between God or the ' Universal Self -con- 
sciousness ' and the individual self is made the ground for 
despoiling the latter of any responsibility for its own actions 
which it does not possess for the events of the world in general. 
Nor can an illusory share in the responsibility for the Universe 
and its history be regarded as any satisfactory equivalent for 
the loss of any individual causality ; for, when we turn to the 
relation between God and the world, we discover that that 
relation too is resolved into a relation between the knowing 
subject and the things which it knows. No Causality is recog- 
nized in the Universe except the necessary connexion of thought 
between phenomenal antecedent and phenomenal consequent, 
Between the events of the world and the subject without 
which it would not be, there is no relation of Causality at all, 
God is the universal Thinker (if indeed He is not resolved intc 
Thought without a Thinker), but He is not a Universal Wilier, 
In the same way the actions which the individual self knows 
are not in any case whatever the events which it causes, but just 
the events which it cannot help. If Causality is recognized at 
all in regard to human actions, it is recognized only in the same 
sense in which Causality is recognized between one natural event 
and another. The fact that the antecedents of human action are 
facts of consciousness makes no difference to their essential 
character. We have a 'psychological mechanism* instead of 
a physical mechanism ; that is the only difference. It is not the 
self (individual or universal) that is the cause of the action, but 
an event in consciousness which is the cause of other events in 
consciousness. The self does not cause these events, but simply 


looks on while they happen. Actions are regarded as causing 
one another in just as mechanical a way as that in which the 
movements of a billiard ball are determined by antecedent move- 
ments. If the series of events which make up the conscious life 
of the individual may in a sense be spoken of as a kind of self, 
this is merely the so-called ' phenomenal self T ' ; quite a different 
self from the self to which the categories of knowledge, and con- 
sequently in some sense the existence of Nature itself, are attri- 
buted. This phenomenal or empirical self is persistently degraded 
to the level of a merely animal sensibility ; it is the tendency of the 
school in question hardly to distinguish between the individual's 
voluntary actions and events in unconscious nature. No doubt 
the presentation to the self of the successive events which we 
call human actions is necessary to their happening, but this self 
is not individual but Universal, and the presence of this world- 
making Self is only necessary to human actions in the same 
sense in which it is necessary to other events in the world's 
history. It causes neither the one nor the other. 

How fatal are these ideas to the conception of duty, of moral 
responsibility or imputability, of an objective moral law to which 
the individual self is subject, need hardly be pointed out ; nor 
will it have escaped the reader how nearly we have arrived by 
a different route at the same position as that which is involved in 
the theory of a purely materialistic Automatism according to 
which spirits and spiritual or psychical states are never causes 
but always effects the accidental bye-products or 'epipheno- 
mena' of physical changes which determine one another (and 
their psychical concomitants) in a purely mechanical manner. 
Both theories refuse to attribute human actions to a self; 
both attribute them to the Absolute or ultimate Reality. That 
Reality may be differently conceived of by the two theories ; the 
one may conceive of it materialistically, and the other spiritual- 
istically ; but in either case we have no room for attributing the 
causality of any human action to a real human self. And this 
is exactly what the ethical point of view involves. In what 

3 For the school in question tends to abolish the individual ' noumenal 
self of Kant. It recognizes no * noumenal 1 self but the Universal Self- 


relation the individual life and its activities may stand to the 
Universal Will and its volitions, in what sense all the events of 
Nature may be attributed to the Universal Self, what is the 
relation between the Reason and the Will in the Universal Self 
these are no doubt matters about which many questions may 
be asked. But that in some intelligible sense, primarily and 
immediately, actions may be attributed to the individual self 
as their cause and are good or bad according as the self is good 
or bad that is the starting-point and primary postulate of 
Ethics. Wherein and in what sense this ethical point of view 
may be regarded as ultimate, whether it is the truth and the 
whole truth, or merely a truth which holds at a ' certain level of 
thought,' are questions of which something will be said here- 
after. But that these propositions possess objective truth, and 
are not as a mere seeming which adequate philosophic insight 
can reduce to a delusion, must be declared to be a primary and 
absolutely essential presupposition of every system of Ethics 
which can attribute any meaning to the word * ought/ And 
the very fact that this assumption is a postulate of Ethics is by 
itself a sufficient reason for declaring that it possesses meta- 
physical truth. It is implied in the idea of Morality, and the 
idea of Morality is a datum of the moral consciousness ; and the 
data of consciousness are the only ground which we have for 
believing anything at all. No doubt this, like all other im- 
mediate data of consciousness, has to be harmonized and recon- 
ciled with other data of consciousness, if it can be shown that 
there is any prim a facie collision or irreconcilability between 
them, but there is, to say the least of it, an enormous presump- 
tion against any ' harmonization ' or ' conciliation ' which turns 
such an ultimate datum of consciousness into a mere illusion. 
To this subject we shall return hereafter: meanwhile I shall 
merely insist that the existence of our moral ideas has as good a 
right to be taken into consideration in the construction of our 
ultimate theory of Universe as any other kind of fact. We must 
not reject the deliverances of the moral Consciousness merely 
because they are inconsistent with some metaphysical theory 
which has been arrived at without taking those deliverances into 


It may be asked against precisely what school or what in- 
dividual writers these criticisms are directed. I will not attempt 
to discuss how far they are justly attributed to Hegel l . I will 
only say that it is a point of view which is implied in at least 
one interpretation of Hegel ; and that interpretation of Hegel is 
precisely the one which has most powerfully influenced, to say 
the least of it, those through whom Hegelian ways of thinking 
have become common among English students of Ethics. To 
say without qualification or reserve that the mode of thought 
above indicated was that of Thomas Hill Green would be unfair 
and one-sided. As a Moralist, no one recognized more earnestly 
than Green the facts of moral responsibility and imputability ; 
but that there is a logical hiatus between Green's ethical system 
and the metaphysical system with which he sought to connect it 
is coming to be very generally recognized both among those who 
sympathize with, and by those who dissent from, Green's practical 
attitude towards Morality 2 . If no individual self is recognized 
except a merely phenomenal or psychological self, if the self 
which is active in Morality is identical with the ' spiritual prin- 
ciple not in time ' implied by all our knowledge, if this * principle 
not in time ' is further identified with a Universal Self -conscious- 
ness which is regarded as Reason and is denied Causality or 
volition, it is difficult to see how Green can escape the conse- 
quences which I have suggested. No doubt much is to be found 
in Green's writings which is inconsistent with such a view. We 
read much of the strivings of the self (presumably of the indivi- 
dual self) after ' self-satisfaction/ of the self imputing to itself 
its own actions, of God as a Mind which, though He does not act 
or will or feel or love, has some vague and undefined connexion 
with the moral law. But how a timeless self can find a satis- 

1 If we substitute for a ' Universal Self-consciousness ' the idea of God 
considered under the attribute of Thought, and recognize that (in his view) 
the Thought manifests itself only in individual selves, it may be said fairly 
to represent (as far as it goes) Spinoza's attitude toward Ethics. Here, as in 
other matters, Spinoza held, with full and explicit consciousness, the view 
of the world to which Hegelianism tends, but which the practical aims of 
its exponents have often prevented their explicitly recognizing. 

9 Green's ethical views are most fully expounded in his Prolegomena to 
Ethics, 1883. 

Chap, i, iii] THE EGO IN GEEEN 205 

faction, not previously experienced, in human actions which 
have a beginning in time ; how a self which is not differentiated 
(except perhaps on the side of the animal organism) from the 
Universal Self-consciousness can impute to itself its good or bad 
acts without imputing them in exactly the same sense and 
degree to the Universal Self-consciousness ; how any events at 
all can be ' imputed ' to a self which thinks all things but origi- 
nates nothing these are questions which it would be difficult to 
answer in a satisfactory manner without glossing the text of 
Green's writings altogether past recognition. 

Many minds will no doubt regard a system of Moral Philo- 
sophy as very incomplete which does not set out with a much 
more detailed and elaborate analysis of the self than is to be 
found in these pages. No doubt a Moral Philosopher may, if he 
chooses, properly devote much more time than I have done either 
to the metaphysical, or again to the psychological, treatment of 
the self. I am far from depreciating the importance of either 
sort of enquiry. I can only repeat that I have not gone into 
greater detail because (a) it seemed to me that an elaborate and 
detailed investigation of the nature of the self from a moral 
point of view cannot easily be separated from the whole body 
of metaphysical and psychological questions which can be raised 
about the self; and (b) because I should contend that in the 
whole of the preceding pages I have really been engaged in 
examining the nature of the self, in so far as that nature is a 
matter of directly ethical import. The conclusions to which we 
have come have most important metaphysical consequences 
consequences which it belongs to Metaphysic proper to develope 
and trace out. But I do not consider that these conclusions are 
prima facie inconsistent with any metaphysical theory about the 
self which recognizes (a) that the self is a permanent reality ; (6) that 
that reality is spiritual, in so far as it has a permanent life of its 
own not identical with the changes of the material organism with 
which it is (in whatever way) connected ; (c) that the acts of the 
man really proceed from and express the nature or character of 
the self *. I call the existence of such a self a primary postu- 
late of Ethics, because without it we can recognize no meaning 
1 This point will be dealt with more at length in the chapter on Free-will. 


in the language which we are compelled at every moment to use 
in all ethical discussion. It is the postulate without which we 
cannot even set out on our ethical journey. Whether there are 
any other postulates of Ethics ; whether, as we proceed with our 
attempt to understand and systematize the facts of our moral 
life and to co-ordinate them with other facts, we are not irre- 
sistibly led on to make further metaphysical demands ; whether 
there are not in this secondary sense some further ' postulates of 
Ethics/ we must now proceed to enquire. 


We have seen that certain metaphysical presuppositions as to 
the nature of knowledge and the nature of the self are necessary 
to the very existence of an ethical system which can be regarded 
as representing and justifying the deliverances of the moral 
consciousness. When we have admitted that knowledge is not 
mere subjective feeling or passive experience, that the self is as 
real as or more real than any ' thing ' of which Physical Science 
can tell us, and that the self causes certain events which are 
commonly spoken of as its actions, then we are able to recognize 
the reality of duty, of ideals, of a good which includes right 
conduct. And prima facie it might appear that the truth and 
validity of these ideals are independent of any particular con- 
clusions as to the ultimate nature of things which go beyond 
these simple presuppositions. The man who wishes to see any 
meaning in the deliverances of his own moral consciousness and 
to represent to himself the attempt to live up to the ideal 
which they set before him as an intelligible and rational aim, 
must assume this much about knowledge and about the self; 
but it may possibly be contended that he need assume nothing 
further about the ultimate nature of things, except that it is 
a Universe, part of whose nature is to produce this moral con- 
sciousness of his. And it is no doubt true that the Agnostic 
(in Metaphysic or Theology) cannot be convicted of any positive 
inconsistency, if he simply accepts the dictates of his moral con- 
sciousness as final, and says : ' I know nothing as to the ultimate 
source of these moral ideas, except that they come to me in the 
same way as the rest of my knowledge, or anything as to the 


ultimate outcome of this moral life which I feel to be incumbent 
upon me. I simply know the meaning of the good, and that 
it is right for me to aim at it, and that I can. to some extent, 
bring it into existence by my voluntary action.' Psychologically 
this attitude is a possible one. The term ' good ' or ' right ' does 
not contain any explicit reference to any theological or meta- 
physical theory of the Universe. The proposition that some 
things are right, others wrong, is not in any sense an inference 
or deduction from any such theory ; it is an immediate datum or 
deliverance of consciousness. The truth is assented to, and acted 
upon, by men of all religions or of none, by persons who hold 
most dissimilar views as to the ultimate nature of the Universe, 
and by men who profess to have no theory of the Universe at all. 
And it is impossible to say that the words ' good ' and ' right ' 
have no meaning for such persons or an entirely different mean- 
ing from what they have for the Metaphysician who refuses 
to acquiesce in Agnosticism. In this sense it is of the highest 
possible importance to recognize what is sometimes spoken of as 
the ' independence of Morality/ But it remains a further ques- 
tion whether the true meaning of Morality is capable of being 
made explicit, and of being reconciled or harmonized with other 
facts of our knowledge or experience without necessitating 
the adoption of certain views concerning the ultimate nature 
of things and the rejection of certain other views. If this should 
turn out to be the case, Morality will be in exactly the same 
position as any other part of our knowledge. So long as we 
refuse to bring any piece of our knowledge or experience into 
connexion with any other part of it, the particular piece of 
knowledge cannot be shown to be either consistent or incon- 
sistent with such other parts of our knowledge. So long as that 
is the case, it may no doubt from a high metaphysical attitude 
be maintained that this knowledge may not be altogether true, 
since it may require to be corrected and limited in order to bring 
it into harmony with other parts of our knowledge : for the only 
test that we have of the validity of any part of our knowledge 
is its capacity for being harmonized or co-ordinated with the rest 
of it. But, from a rough practical point of view, it is possible to 
be certain of the truth of Science without holding any meta- 


physical position at all : and in that sense it is equally possible 
to combine a strong conviction of the reality or objective validity 
of moral distinctions with complete Agnosticism as to the general 
nature of the Universe, though in practice Agnosticism is very 
apt to involve negative assumptions the irreconcilability of which 
with what is implied in the idea of moral obligation, can with diffi- 
culty remain unrecognized. But after all the question remains 
whether this refusal to bring one part of our knowledge into con- 
nexion with the rest is a reasonable attitude of mind. It is always 
easy to escape inconsistency by resolutely shutting our eyes to a 
portion of the facts, by refusing to think or by arbitrarily stopping 
the process of thought at some particular point l . When we ask 
whether a certain intellectual attitude is ultimately reasonable, 
we presuppose that we are making up our minds to look at the 
whole of the facts. Agnosticism is not a reasonable attitude 
of mind when it is possible to know. And the question arises 
whether, when the attempt to harmonize and so to justify our 
beliefs is honestly made, the man who wishes to defend and 
rationalize his practical recognition of moral obligation may not 
be forced into the alternative of giving up his ethical creed or of 
giving up certain views of the Universe which reflection has 
shown to be inconsistent with that creed. 

Are there then any metaphysical positions about the ultimate 
nature of things which logically exclude the idea of an objective 
Moral Law ? Let us suppose, for instance, that, without giving 
up that bare minimum of metaphysical belief about the self 
which we have found to be absolutely presupposed in the very 
idea of Morality, a man has nevertheless adopted a materialistic 

1 The strongest assertion of the validity of the idea of duty that has ever 
been made from an agnostic point of view is perhaps to be found in Huxley's 
brilliant Romanes Lecture on Evolution and Ethics (Collected Essays, Vol. IX). 
It is interesting to see how near the contention that Natural and Moral Law 
have equal validity brings him to the admission that they have ultimately 
a common source. What Huxley refuses to ask is whether the validity of 
the Moral Law does not throw some light upon the nature of that Reality 
which is revealed both by Physical Law and by Moral Law whether the 
belief that we ought to resist the ' cosmic process ' and the impulse to act 
upon that belief are not as much a product of the Cosmos, and a revelation 
of its ultimate nature, as those physical and psychological tendencies which 
Morality bids us resist. 


or naturalistic view of the world to this extent that he believes 
that the origin of the self, and of the knowledge which resides in 
the self, may actually be traced to certain material processes 
of a Reality in which previously no mind resided except as 
a 'promise and potency* of the future. Such a man is not, 
indeed, technically in the most thorough-going sense of the word 
a Materialist if he admits that after all a true view of the 
Universe must include a recognition of the spiritual nature which 
the Universe has ultimately, by whatever process, evolved. And 
it is quite right to emphasize the difference between a position 
of this kind and the old confused puzzle-headed Materialism which 
was inclined to look on matter and motion as real things and on 
thought, feeling (with perhaps some not very logical exception in 
favour of pleasure and pain), emotion, aspiration, ideals as mere 
arbitrary inventions or hallucinations. But, putting aside for 
the present the purely metaphysical difficulties of such a position, 
we have to ask how it must affect our attitude towards Morality. 
So long as the ultimate reality of things is regarded as purely 
material, so long as material process is regarded as the sole cause 
or source or ground of mind and all its contents, there is always 
the possibility of scepticism as to the knowledge of which this 
material world has somehow delivered itself. Our knowledge 
may be conceived of as representing, not the real truth of things, 
but the way in which it is most conducive to the survival of the 
race that we should think of them. Error and delusion may be 
valuable elements in Evolution ; to a certain extent it is un- 
deniable, from any metaphysical standpoint, that they have 
actually been so. But on the naturalistic view of things the 
doubt arises not merely whether this or that particular belief 
of ours is a delusion, but whether human thought in general may 
not wholly fail to correspond with Reality, whether thought 
qua thought may not be a delusion, whether (to put it still more 
paradoxically) the more rational a man's thought becomes, the 
more faithfully the individual adheres to the canons of human 
Reason, the wider may be the gulf between his thinking and 
the facts. Arguments might no doubt be found for putting 
away such an ' unmotived ' doubt as to the trustworthiness of 
our knowledge about ordinary matters of fact its self-con- 



sistency, the constant correspondence of the predictions which it 
makes with subsequent experience, the practical serviceableness 
for the purposes of life of its assumed validity, and the useless- 
ness of entertaining doubts as to, the trustworthiness of our 
faculties which from the nature of the case can be neither con- 
firmed nor refuted ; though after all such arguments at bottom 
assume the validity of thought. But these considerations do not 
apply in the same degree to moral knowledge. It is often possible 
to explain in a sense this or that particular ethical belief by the 
history of the race, the environment of the individual, and the 
like. Such considerations do not shake belief in the ultimate 
validity of moral distinctions for an Idealist who believes that the 
Universe owes its very existence to the Mind which assures him 
of these distinctions (though he is aware that the evolution of his 
individual mind has been conditioned by physical processes and 
social environment) ; but they wear a totally different aspect for 
one who has no general a priori reason for assuming a corre- 
spondence of thought with things *. The Idealist has every reason 
for believing the ultimate moral ideas to be true that he has for 
believing any other ideas to be true, though he realizes that he 
does not know the whole truth, and that his knowledge of this or 
ignorance of that element in the moral ideal (like his knowledge 
or ignorance of ordinary scientific truth) is in part explicable by 
the accident of antecedents or environment. But to the man 
who regards all spiritual life as a mere inexplicable incident in 
the career of a world which is essentially material (were it not 
for the human and animal minds which it is known to have 
produced) and as a whole essentially purposeless, there is no con- 
clusive reason why all moral ideas the very conception of 
1 value/ the very notion that one thing is intrinsically better 
than another, the very conviction that there is something which 
a man ought to do may not be merely some strange illusion due 

1 I am quite alive to the difficulties involved in the 'correspondence 
theory ' as to the nature of Truth, which have been brilliantly developed by 
Mr. Joachim in his recent Essay on The Nature of Truth, and it is one which 
no Idealist can well regard as the final and ultimate account of the matter, 
but any discussion of such a question would be quite out of place in an 
ethical treatise. Mr. Joachim would no doubt admit that we cannot help 
employing such language in such a connexion as the present. 


to the unaccountable freaks of a mindless process or to the 
exigencies of natural selection. It cannot be said that a man 
who allowed such doubts to shake or modify his allegiance to 
the dictates of Morality, where they do not happen to coincide 
with his actual desires or inclinations, would be doing anything 
essentially unreasonable. Reasonable conduct would for him 
mean merely ' conduct conformable to his own private reason ' : 
intrinsically or absolutely reasonable or unreasonable conduct 
could not exist in a world which was not itself the product 
of Reason or governed by its dictates. 

Another way of putting much the same difficulty is this. We 
say that the Moral Law has a real existence, that there is 
such a thing as an absolute Morality, that there is something 
absolutely true or false in ethical judgements, whether we or 
any number of human beings at any given time actually think 
so or not. Such a belief is distinctly implied in what we mean 
by Morality. The idea of such an unconditional, objectively 
valid, Moral Law or ideal undoubtedly exists as a psychological 
fact. The question before us is whether it is capable of theo- 
retical justification. We must then face the question where such 
an ideal exists, and what manner of existence we are to attribute 
to it. Certainly it is to be found, wholly and completely, in no 
individual human consciousness. Men actually think differently 
about moral questions, and there is no empirical reason for sup- 
posing that they will ever do otherwise. Where then and how 
does the moral ideal really exist ? As regards matters of fact or 
physical law, we have no difficulty in satisfying ourselves that 
there is an objective reality which is what it is irrespectively of 
our beliefs or disbeliefs about it. For the man who supposes 
that objective reality resides in the things themselves, our ideas 
about them are objectively true or false so far as they correspond 
or fail to correspond with this real and independent archetype, 
though he might be puzzled to give a metaphysical account 
of the nature of this * correspondence ' between experience and 
a Reality whose ease is something other than to be experienced. 
In the physical region the existence of divergent ideas does not 
throw doubt upon the existence of a reality independent of our 
ideas. But in the case of moral ideals it is otherwise. On 


materialistic or naturalistic assumptions the moral ideal can 
hardly be regarded as a real thing. Nor could it well be 
regarded as a property of any real thing : it can be no more 
than an aspiration, a product of the imagination, which may 
be useful to stimulate effort in directions in which we happen to 
want to move, but which cannot compel respect when we feel 
no desire to act in conformity with it. An absolute Moral Law 
or moral ideal cannot exist in material things. And it does not 
(we have seen) exist in the mind of this or that individual. 
Only if we believe in the existence of a Mind for which the true 
moral ideal is already in some sense real, a Mind which is the 
source of whatever is true in our own moral judgements, can we 
rationally think of the moral ideal as no less real than the world 
itself. Only so can we believe in an absolute standard of right 
and wrong, which is as independent of this or that man's actual 
ideas and actual desires as the facts of material nature. The 
belief in God, though not (like the belief in a real and an active 
self) a postulate of there being any such thing as Morality at all, 
is the logical presupposition of an * objective ' or absolute Morality. 
A moral ideal can exist nowhere and nohow but in a mind ; an 
absolute moral ideal can exist only in a Mind from which all 
Reality is derived *. Our moral ideal can only claim objective 
validity in so far as it can rationally be regarded as the revela- 
tion of a moral ideal eternally existing in the mind of God. 

We may be able,perhaps,to give some meaning to Morality with- 
out the postulate of God, but not its true or full meaning. If the 
existence of God is not a postulate of all Morality, it is a postu- 
late of a sound Morality ; for it is essential to that belief which 
vaguely and implicitly underlies all moral beliefs, and which 
forms the very heart of Morality in its highest, more developed, 
more explicit forms. The truth that the moral ideal is what it 
is whether we like it or not is the most essential element in what 
the popular consciousness understands by * moral obligation/ 
Moral obligation means moral objectivity. That at least seems 
to be implied in any legitimate use of the term : at least it im- 

1 Or at least a mind by which all Reality is controlled. Want of space 
forbids my discussing the ethical aspect of Pluralism or of a theory which 
regards spirits other than God as having no beginning. 

Chap, i, v] MORALITY AND THEISM 213 

plies the existence of an absolute, objective moral ideal. And 
such a belief we have seen imperatively to demand an explana- 
tion of the Universe which shall be idealistic or at least spiritual- 
istic, which shall recognize the existence of a Mind whose 
thoughts are the standard of truth and falsehood alike in 
Morality and in respect of all other existence. In other words, 
objective Morality implies the belief in God. The belief in God, 
if not so obviously and primarily a postulate of Morality as the 
belief in a permanent spiritual and active self, is still a postulate 
of a Morality which shall be able fully to satisfy the demands 
of the moral consciousness. It may conveniently be called the 
secondary postulate of Morality. 

That belief in God involves something more than the belief 
that there is a universal Mind for which and in which the moral 
ideal exists. There can be no meaning in the idea of Morality for 
a Being who is mere Thought and not Will. If human Morality is 
a revelation, however imperfect, of the ultimate nature of Reality, 
it must represent, not merely an ideal existing in and for the 
Mind which is the ultimate source or ground of Reality, but also 
the nature of the end towards which that Reality is moving. 
The very idea of Morality implies action directed towards an 
end which has value. If the value of 'good' has its counter- 
part in the divine Mind, the course of events is itself governed 
by the same Mind which is the source of our moral ideas, and 
must be ultimately directed towards the end which the true moral 
ideal, disclosed however imperfectly in the moral consciousness 
of man, sets us up as the goal and canon of human conduct. 
The Universe itself must have a purpose or rational end, a pur- 
pose which commends itself as reasonable to the Mind which 
wills it : and the nature of that end must be at least in part 
disclosed by our moral judgements. What valid human judge- 
ments pronounce to be good must be part of the divine end, and 
the rest of that end must be such as could, consistently with the 
principles governing these human judgements of value, be pro- 
nounced good. 

That an objectively valid Morality implies belief in the funda- 


mental rationality of the Universe will no doubt be admitted by 
some thinkers whose belief about its ultimate nature falls more 
or less short of what is commonly understood by Theism, who 
do not believe that Nature is (as a genuine Theist, like Lotze, 
holds) an effect whose cause is God, or at least who decline to 
think of that God as ' personal/ Intense belief in a rational 
principle behind nature combined with much vagueness about 
the personal, or even the self-conscious nature, of that principle 
meets us already in the writings of Plato. And a similar vague- 
ness, which might have been supposed to belong to a stage of 
human thought in which the distinction between subject and 
object, mind and matter, thought and will, was still imperfectly 
grasped, has beset the path of philosophic thought in later times. 
I have not space to defend the position here taken up, or to meet 
the objections which will at once be raised in many quarters ; 
but I will simply state that to my own mind the only form in 
which belief in the rationality of the Universe is intelligible is 
the form which ascribes the events of its history to a self-con- 
scious rational Will directing itself towards an end which 
presents itself to Him as absolutely good l . However inadequate 
our conceptions of 'Will/ < Mind/ < Purpose/ ' Reason/ Personality/ 
may be to express the nature of such a Being, they are the best 
we have. Thought does not become more adequate by becoming 
vaguer. It is not the limitations inherent in human personality 
that we imply when we ascribe personality to God ; but all the 
positive attributes that constitute man's superiority to the beasts 
carried to a much higher level and freed from the limitations by 
which they are in us conditioned 2 . Applied to God, all such 

1 Creation in time, though possibly involving no greater difficulties than 
any other solution of the Antinomy which arises from the attempt to think 
of the beginning or non-beginning of the existing world (an Antinomy which 
has never been satisfactorily * transcended '), is not necessarily implied by 
this belief. All that I mean is that the events (whether the series be endless 
or not) are caused by the Will of God. I quite recognize the difficulty of 
thinking of the divine Will as antecedent to the series or as a cause which is 
not antecedent to its effect. This consideration forms one of the difficulties. 
The impossibility of solving the Antinomy rests upon our ignorance of the 
true relation of Reality to Time, as to which see below, p. 245 eq. 

2 It may be asked why Morality itself should not be one of the limitations 


terms must be understood (as the Schoolmen said) ' sensu emi- 
nentiori.' And if the end imperfectly revealed in Morality be 
the end of the Universe or the end of God, it must, it would 
seem, be fulfilled. In what sense and to what extent it must 
be fulfilled, is a question on which much might be said, and I 
shall return to that question hereafter l . But at least it would 
seem that the end which presents itself to the divine conscious- 
ness as good must be so far fulfilled as to make the being of the 
world better than its not- being : otherwise, we have no explana- 
tion as to why it should be willed at all 2 . But can any one 
seriously maintain that the world as it is human life as it is 
is so good as to account for its having been willed by a per- 
fectly good and perfectly rational Being, except as a means to an 
end beyond itself ? Is human life, whether we look at its moral 
side or its hedonistic side, so good as to seem an adequate end 
for such a Being to have willed ? If it be admitted that human 
life, as it is, is not adequate to the justification of the Universe, 
it may perhaps be suggested that in the future it is going to be 
so. But apart from the difficulty of regarding as reasonable an 
arrangement by which countless generations of human beings 
have been called into existence merely as a means to the Well- 
being of other generations, there is as little empirical justification 
for an optimistic view of the future of humanity as for an 
optimistic view of its past or its present. Only if we suppose 
that the present life of human beings has an end which lies in 
part beyond the limits of the present natural order, in so far as 
that order is accessible to present human observation, can we 

incident to human personality. I should answer, * Because the other limita- 
tionssuch as partial knowledge, intermittent consciousness, liability to be 
thwarted by other persons over whom one has no control, the distinction 
between present feeling and the thought of an absent feeling, and so on 
we can ourselves see to be connected with limitations which cannot apply 
to God. There is no reason for supposing this to be the case with ultimate 
moral principles any more than for supposing that 2 f 2 = 4 is only true 
from a human point of view/ 

1 Below, chap. iii. 

2 It has been suggested that the not-willing of any world at all may be 
one of the inherent impossibilities or limitations in God. I should reply 
that a Being obliged to cause what seemed to Him bad could not be said in 
any intelligible sense to will at all. 


find a rational meaning and explanation for human life as we 
see it ; and by far the most natural and intelligible form of such 
a world-end is the belief in Immortality l for the individual 
souls which have lived here. If human life be a training- 
ground and discipline for souls wherein they are being fitted 
and prepared for a life better alike in a moral and a hedonistic 
sense than the present, then at last we do find an adequate explana- 
tion of the willing of such a world by a Being whose character 
the moral consciousness at its highest presents to us as Love. 

And it is not only the actual amount of moral badness and the 
actual amount of pain in the world that make it so desperate 
an attempt to claim rationality for the Universe on the assump- 
tion that the life of the individual ends with death. It is the 
distribution of good and evil the relation in which goodness 
and happiness, badness and misery, stand to each other which 
it is so difficult to reconcile with that postulate of a rational 
Universe which is implicitly contained in the claim of the moral 
consciousness to objective validity. We have, indeed, examined 
and rejected the idea that Virtue carries with it an intrinsic 
title to reward, or that vice demands punishment for punishment's 
sake, but we have discovered in the popular belief about reward 
and punishment a crude testimony to the rationality of an order 
of things in which goodness and happiness should go together. 
The real meaning of the belief that Virtue should be rewarded 
is that Virtue is not by itself the whole of human good ; the real 
meaning of the theory that vice should be punished, not merely 
as a measure of social protection but as a demand of absolute 
Justice, is that happiness without goodness is not the true good. 
The good, we have seen, is neither goodness nor happiness, but 
both together 2 . If the Universe does not tend to promote the 
good, it cannot be rational. And another element in rationality 
is the Justice which prescribes that, as far as possible, beings of 
equal capacity shall be equally treated in the distribution of good. 
A coincidence between goodness and happiness is, according to 

1 As to the reasons for preferring * Immortality ' to a simple * future life,' 
see below. 

2 For the sake of brevity we may for the moment ignore all the other 
elements in the Universe of Good. 


the deep-seated popular conviction, a necessary characteristic of 
a rational world-order ; and that conviction is one which, sub- 
ject to the explanations already given, justifies itself to philoso- 
phical reflection. In present human life nothing but the roughest 
and most general tendency to such a coincidence, if even that, 
can possibly be discerned. The good the ideal life of our highest 
ideals is unknown to human experience. Goodness as we 
know it, if it brings with it some internal sources of happiness, 
brings with it also (in its own nature and apart from external 
circumstances) much internal pain the pain of sympathy, the 
anxiety of the scrupulous Conscience, the pain of failure to attain 
its ends : in fact, in so far as happiness is regarded as including 
pleasure and the absence of pain, there is hardly any connexion 
between the possession of it and the moral character of the 
possessors. Christendom has found its highest moral ideal in one 
? who was a man of sorrows. Whatever be the explanation of 
such "UB^oixler of things as a temporary or partial phase or 
aspect of the world's life, the deeper our conviction of the 
rationality of the Universe, the stronger becomes our unwilling- 
ness to believe that such an order can be final and permanent. 
Hence it is that a sincere Theism has nearly always carried with 
it a belief in Immortality. The belief in Immortality has not 
been due merely to a defective appreciation of the intrinsic good- 
ness of Virtue or of the intrinsic badness of vice ; on the contrary 
it is a belief which is usually held with an intensity proportional 
to that appreciation. It is a necessary corollary of the rational- 
ity of the Universe that its course should be so directed as to 
bring about an ultimate coincidence between the higher and the 
lower kinds of good, which are both alike essential to the full 
and true Well-being of a human soul. So long as it was possible 
to believe that happiness and misery, prosperity and failure, 
were distributed in this life on principles of absolute Justice, 
belief in the rationality of things did not necessarily carry with 
it belief in Immortality. The Jews were at one time behind 
other nations in the distinctness of their belief in personal Im- 
mortality, just because (it would seem) of the intensity with 
which they believed that obedience to Jehovah's laws would be 
rewarded by national victory and agricultural prosperity a 


belief ultimately shattered by the experiences of the Exile 1 . 
A further knowledge of History and of Physical Science 
has taught us that, however much we may recognize a general 
tendency to make man under ordinary circumstances happier 
with goodness than without it, no complete or even general coin- 
cidence between the higher and the lower kinds of good can be 
traced in the actual course of human affairs. When this fact is 
clearly recognized, belief in Immortality becomes a postulate of 
the belief in a rational world-order or (what is for most minds 
the same thing) of belief in God. And therefore belief in Im- 
mortality comes to be (for those who share that view of the 
empirical facts) a postulate of Ethics in the same sense as the 
belief in God. 

I may sum up the position at which we have arrived by 
saying that a certain belief about the self and its relation to 
human action may be described as the primary postulate of 
Ethics, since the incompatibility between its negation and a real 
belief in an objective or absolute Ethic is obvious on the face of 
it, obvious at the level of common-sense thought. The belief in 
God may be described as a secondary postulate of Ethics, since, 
though no explicit reference to it is contained in the ethical 
iudgement itself, its implication in that judgement discloses 
itself as soon as the attempt is made to develope what is con- 
tained in the actual moral consciousness and to harmonize it 
with other parts of our experience. And finally belief in Im- 
mortality may be described as in a tertiary sense a postulate of 
Ethics, inasmuch as it is a postulate of belief in God for all 
minds to whom the actual constitution of things without that 
hypothesis presents itself as one which could not possibly be 
willed by a Being whose nature, character, and purposes are of 
the kind implied by the ideals revealed to us in our own moral 

1 It must be remembered that the Jewish Theology only reached the level 
of pure Monotheism a very little before a developed belief in Immortality 
(as distinct from a mere survival which could hardly be called life in 
a shadowy Sheol) began to appear. And if Theism be held to include belief 
in a God who is just and impartially benevolent to all mankind, it was 
certainly not attained by the Jews before the Exile, even if it was ever 
reached by pre-Christian Judaism at all. 


The course of events must itself be governed by the same 
Mind which is the source of our moral ideas, and be ultimately 
directed towards the ends which the moral ideal, disclosed, how- 
ever imperfectly, in the moral consciousness of man, sets up as 
the goal and canon of human conduct. The Universe itself 
must have a purpose or rational end, a purpose which a perfect 
Reason would pronounce to be good. The end which our 
Reason sets before us as the true end of conduct must be the end 
likewise of the Mind from which that Reason is derived. This 
seems speculatively necessary if Morality is to be regarded as 
ultimately and in the fullest sense rational rational not merely 
from the point of view of this or that actual intelligence, or even 
from the point of view of all human intelligences, but from the 
point of view of all Reason whatever, universally, absolutely. And, 
as it is speculatively necessary, so it is, if not practically ne- 
cessary in every individual case, at least highly conducive to 
Morality in practice that it should be believed that the ends which 
Morality sets before itself are destined to be realized. Unless the 
Universe be rational, no course of conduct can be said to be wholly 
and absolutely rational ; we could only say * I am so constituted ' or 
at the very most ' we are so constituted that this or that seems 
rational to me or to us/ And the Universe is not rational 
because there is a rational intelligence for whom it exists ; if it 
is to be in the true sense rational, it must be directed towards 
ends which a rational intelligence would pronounce good l . I do 
not say that without this belief Morality would become irrational; 
moral conduct would still be as rational as anything could be in 

1 Much confusion has been caused by the ambiguity of the word ' rational.' 
It may mean * intelligible ' or ' reducible to a coherent system such that one 
part of it could (with adequate insight) be inferred from another. 1 In this 
sense the Universe might be rational if it were a sort of infernal machine. 
Or it may mean (and that is the only sense in which we ought to talk about 
a reality which includes events as ' rational ') realizing an end which is 
absolutely good. It has been part of the legerdemain of a certain school to 
prove that the Universe is rational in the first sense, and then to assume that 
it must be rational in the second, and therefore, it is urged, anything in it 
which strikes us as bad must be mere appearance. In this way a Universe 
in which Sin and Misery habitually triumph over goodness is represented 
to us as eminently * rational 1 and therefore as a satisfying object of moral 
and aesthetic contemplation, if not of religious Worship. 


an irrational Universe, i.e. it would seem rational to some 
persons who think that they see clearly. And a man to whom 
it appeared good to diminish human suffering, and who desired 
that which he saw to be good, would still allow himself to be 
influenced by the desire, even though he thought or suspected 
that the Universe was very bad though of course if his view of 
the ultimate badness of things reached a certain intensity, the 
encouragement of universal suicide might present itself to him 
as the only way to attain his end 1 . But a belief of this kind 
is obviously one not calculated to encourage or stimulate what 
is ordinarily called Morality. To some minds no doubt the im- 
pulse to fight against the evil in a world in which evil was the 
stronger power would always seem good and noble. But Pessi- 
mism is not the belief about the Universe which is best calcu- 
lated to call forth the highest energies even of the noblest souls. 
Still less is it calculated to foster the ethical education of those 
(and they are the vast majority, especially as regards the earlier 
stages of the individual's moral life) who recognize the intrinsic 
goodness of the Moral Law, but whose desire to fulfil it is faintly 
and fitfully struggling against a host of conflicting impulses. 
The belief that the Universe has a rational end is speculatively 
a postulate of an absolute or unconditional Morality : and the 
speculative necessity is one which is evident enough to minds of 
by no means a highly speculative cast. A Morality which is 
not absolute or unconditional is not Morality as it presents 
itself to the developed moral consciousness. 


We have been investigating the metaphysical postulates of 
Morality. There remains the question ' how far can such postu- 
lates be reasonably granted ? ' We have seen that a system of 
Ethics such as is here defended assumes a certain metaphysical 

1 Pessimists like Schopenhauer and Von Hartmann only escape this conse- 
quence by the assumptions (a) that such a universal extinction of conscious- 
ness is impossible, because the Absolute would create fresh individuals to 
prevent it, (b) that there is such a complete identity between all individual 
manifestations of the Absolute that there would not be really less suffering 
even if the number of sufferers were greatly reduced. 


position : there remains the question * Is that metaphysical 
position a time one ? ' To answer that question in full is the 
business of Metaphysic itself, and it is a task which cannot here be 
attempted. But there is one aspect of it which must be touched 
on in even the most meagre sketch of the relations between 
Ethics and Metaphysics. We saw that Ethics were related to 
Metaphysics not merely because certain metaphysical positions 
are essential to Ethics, but also because some of the conclusions 
of Ethics are of importance for Metaphysic. We have dealt with 
the debt of Ethics to Metaphysic : we must go on to ask what is 
the debt of Metaphysic to Ethics. And in answering that ques- 
tion, we shall be to some small extent contributing towards 
a solution of the question how far the metaphysical view of the 
Universe which we have seen to be essential to our ethical 
position is on its own merits a true and reasonable theory of the 
Universe. For the bare fact that the moral consciousness re- 
quires certain metaphysical postulates that without them we 
cannot explain and justify an important part of our actual 
thought supplies by itself a strong ground for inferring that 
those postulates are true, and for accepting a theory of the 
Universe which admits their truth. Cardinal Newman has made 
the assertion that the bare existence of Conscience is by itself 
a sufficient reason for believing in the existence of God, 1 It 
would be hard to say how much we should be entitled to infer 
as to the ultimate constitution of the Universe from the existence 
of Conscience taken entirely by itself. For the very idea of 
Conscience, or of the Morality which Conscience proclaims, is 
unintelligible in complete isolation from other elements in our 

1 Compare Von Hartmann's statement: 'The bare fact that we possess 
moral instincts is, even taken by itself, the refutation of all anti-teleological 
views of the Universe ' (Z>. ittl. Betvusstsein, p. 465). Most of those who 
accept Von Hartmann's convincing demonstration of the teleological character 
of the Universe will fail to find a sufficient explanation of the facts in an 
Unconscious Absolute who, however, becomes conscious in the act of Creation 
and, though declared to be identical with individual selves, has apparently a 
pain which is not merely the pain of any particular individuals, since sym- 
pathy with the sufferings of the Absolute is appealed to as a powerful motive 
for Morality, not only in this or that individual, but in humanity collectively. 
Humanity is invited to bear its own sufferings patiently because they are so 
much less than those of the Absolute ! 


knowledge both of ourselves and of the world. The idea of 
Morality implies a good deal of other knowledge. It implies 
the existence of a self which knows and feels and wills, of other 
selves which know and feel and will, of a world which we are 
capable of modifying to some extent but only to some extent. 
And, even if this much non-ethical knowledge be admitted, 
it would be too much to say that the existence of God was 
sufficiently established if, though apparently demanded as the 
presupposition of one part of our experience, it should turn out 
not to be required by, or even to be inconsistent with, other 
parts of it. If the last were the final verdict which Metaphysic 
found it necessary to pronounce, we should be confronted with a 
hopeless antagonism between our practical and our scientific 
beliefs. If we thought that Morality pointed to a God and 
Nature did not, we might be obliged (with Kant in his more 
sceptical moments 1 ) to declare that such a belief is indeed 
a postulate of Ethics, but does not justify our turning this postu- 
late into a piece of speculative knowledge. And even this 
position, full of difficulties both practical and speculative as it is 
generally admitted to be, is only open to us so long as we assume 
that there is at least no positive inconsistency between the view 
of the Universe to which we are led by our examination of other 
aspects of our experience and that which seems to be pre- 
supposed by our moral consciousness. If the apparent postulates 
of our ethical nature should prove positively inconsistent with 
the view of things to which the rest of our experience conducts 
us, we might be placed under the necessity of admitting that the 
interpretation of our ethical experience which involved such 
postulates must be a mistaken one. This is exactly what 
actually happens with those Philosophers whose Metaphysic 
does not allow them to concede the postulates to which the 

1 At other times Kant admits that the postulate does give us even 
theoretical knowledge that God exists, though it does not enable us to know 
speculatively what He is. How we can know that anything is without some, 
however imperfect, knowledge of what it is, is a question the bare state- 
ment of which is now generally felt to be fatal to the Kantian position. We 
must either go forward to a more constructive, speculative Theology, or give 
up an ethical position which compels us to assume speculative positions 
which we are forbidden to assert to be objectively true. 


admitted contents of their moral consciousness would naturally 
point. Recent writers who tend towards a purely psychological 
or naturalistic view of Ethics writers like Simmel, Hoffding, 
and Prof. Taylor 1 have corrected the crude Psychology of 
their predecessors so far as to admit as a psychological fact the 
idea of an absolute ' ought ' : but they see also that from the 
standpoint of Naturalism this ' ought ' can have but a purely 
subjective validity in other words, that it is, from the point 
of view of the person who has discovered its purely subjective 
character, no 'ought* at all. Undeniably the conclusions to 
which the examination of some one part of our nature or our ex- 
perience might seem to point have constantly to be corrected 
in the light which is supplied by other parts of our experience. 
And therefore I can neither (with the believers in ' ethical 
culture ' as a substitute for Religion) pronounce a complete 
divorce between Metaphysic and Ethics, and declare that 
Ethics have no need of any metaphysical background or pre- 
supposition whatever; nor (with Kant or Newman) attempt 
to erect a Theology on an exclusively ethical basis 2 . Our belief 
about the ultimate nature of things must be founded upon an 
examination of our experience as a whole not upon any one 
part of it. It is of the utmost importance to insist that the 
facts of the moral consciousness shall be duly taken into con- 
sideration by any one who attempts to frame a theory of the 
Universe as a whole : but we cannot exclude the possibility that 
our examination of the universe as a whole might forbid us 
to accept the view of things to which Morality, when looked 
at by itself, might seem to point. We are therefore obliged 
to ask whether the presuppositions which our Moral Philosophy 
requires are such as a sound Metaphysic can concede. 

1 Prof. A. E. Taylor has adopted a purely psychological view of Ethics, 
though it would be unfair to describe his attitude towards the Universe in 
general as purely * naturalistic. 1 He is very decidedly an Idealist. 

2 This attitude of the mind is sometimes described as a recognition of the 
1 primacy of the Practical Reason.' I should myself be quite prepared to 
accept the phrase so long as it is dissociated with Scepticism or Agnosticism 
as to the powers of human thought in general, and is held to imply merely 
the idea that Practical Reason makes the largest contribution to our know- 
ledge of the ultimate meaning of the world. 


A full answer to this question is one which cannot be given in 
a mere appendix to a treatise on Ethics. I can only direct the 
reader to the line of thought which he will find developed else- 
where in formal treatises on Metaphysic or the Philosophy of 
Religion. Amid much disagreement there is a general tendency 
among those who have really faced the metaphysical problem to 
recognize the inherent contradictions and uathinkability of 
matter without mind. An analysis of our knowledge reveals 
the fact that all that we know is essentially relative to mind. 
Feeling cannot be except for a consciousness that feels ; equally 
little can an abstract ' idea ' or ' content ' derived from feeling 
have any meaning except in reference to a consciousness which 
at some time or other actually feels. Whatever in the content 
of our consciousness l is not feeling, or a content ultimately 
derived from feeling 2 , is found to consist in relations which are 
only intelligible to a consciousness which can grasp those re- 
lations. The so-called primary qualities of matter form, magni- 
tude, solidity, and the like are (as Berkeley was the first to 
see) just as essentially related to consciousness and unintelligible 
without it as those ' secondary qualities ' colour, sound, and the 
like which the most superficial reflection shows to reside in our 
mind and not in any supposed thing-in-itself, though Berkeley 
was doubtless wrong in failing to recognize the importance 
of the distinction between feeling and thought. The Idealism 
which begins with Kant has shown that the relations, for instance, 
which constitute space cannot be analysed into a mere subjective 
feeling of the individual. It is of the very essence of space that 
all its parts should be thought of as co-existing and having 
a relation to each other, whereas our feelings of touch and sight 
(considered merely as feelings) follow one another in time, and 
cease to be as soon as they cease to be felt. In the Kantian 

1 Except what is Volition. I put aside, as unimportant for the present 
purpose, our knowledge of other minds and of what they experience. 

8 e. g. the thought of a blueness which is not at the time being perceived. 
It is quite true that this general idea, which is neither light blue nor dark 
blue, but inclusive of both, is something which the eye of man has never 
seen and never can Bee, but the judgement that this or that is blue would 
have no meaning, except as a symbol or representative of the blue sensations 
which have been or under certain conditions might be actually perceived. 


analysis of our knowledge th& relational character of space 
points to its essentially subjective character, in the sense that it 
exists for mind only, while it is essentially objective in so far as 
it is not mere feeling but a system of relations and a system of 
relations valid for all minds whatever l . Relations cannot exist 
in things as they are apart from thought, but only in things 
as they are for thought ; and often the relations are relations 
between what exists only in or relatively to experience. And 
the subjective character of space, its essential relativity to 
consciousness, carries with it the subjective character (in that 
sense) of all that is in space in other words, of what is 
commonly meant by ' the material world.' Moreover, the 
whole tendency of post-Kantian thought is to show the im- 
possibility of stopping exactly where Kant stopped on the 
path which leads to pure Idealism. If the world that we know 
is essentially relative to mind, the suggestion that there may 
be another world that we do not know and which is not 
relative to mind becomes as meaningless as the doubt whether 
after all we know the real nature of this mind which all our 
experience implies and of that world which we have shown to be 
essentially the experience of that mind. And yet it is quite 
clear that the world itself cannot be supposed to exist merely in 
the individual mind. Thought itself necessarily leads the in- 
dividual up to the idea of a world which is not merely his world, 
of a world which exists independently of him, of a world which 
is common to all minds, but which no human mind knows all at 
once and in all its completeness. Things exist only for mind, 
and yet the things that the individual knows he does not create 
btJit only discovers. He discovers that they existed before he 
knew them, before he was born, before (so far as he knows) any 
mind like his existed upon this or any other planet. And yet, if 
matter can exist only for mind, there must be some mind for 
which all that is exists ; and if the world is one, that mind must 

1 Kant arbitrarily, as later Idealists hold practically limited this ob- 
jectivity to all human minds : for, though he always held that the Categories 
were valid for all intelligences, he held that we are only capable of applying 
them to matter given under the forms of time and space, which are the forms 
of human perception only. 



be one Mind. That the world implies a Mind to think it is the con- 
clusion to which almost all Idealists l feel driven by an imperious 
necessity of thought. That that necessity has not always led tc 
an unequivocal acceptance of that view of the Universe which is 
usually called Theism has been due largely to the one-sidednese 
with which idealistic thought has fastened upon the cognitive 
side of our conscious being to the exclusion of that side of it 
which is revealed in our voluntary action. Recent Psychology 
and recent Metaphysic have alike directed attention to the will 
as a no less essential element in our consciousness than thought 
and feeling. If we are justified in inferring a universal Thinkei 
from the analogy of our own thought, we are surely justified in 
inferring a universal Will from the analogy of our own wills, 
however fully we may recognize the inadequacy of such terms to 
express the different sides or aspects of the One Spirit 2 in which 

1 There are a few thinkers (Prof. Bosanquet is perhaps one of them) who seem 
to find it possible to accept the idealistic view of things, and yet to suppose 
that the only thoughts for which the world exists are the limited minds which 
began to be so long after the world began. Such writers never seem to me to 
have made even a serious attempt to meet the difficulties which such a view 
involves. In the system of Dr. McTaggart, with whom the Absolute is simply 
the sum of individual minds, its difficulty is to some extent lessened by the 
assumption that individual minds are pre-existent as well as immortal, but 
still I fail to find in Studies in the Hegelian Cosmology, or in anything which 
Dr. McTaggart has written, a real answer to the question for what mind the 
world (which as an Idealist we must admit to exist only for some mind) 
really exists. To insist on the timelessness of the Absolute does not help 
us, since (according to him) the Absolute as such is not self-conscious, but 
only the individual minds which are differentiations of the Absolute, and 
such individual minds, each or any of them or all of them together, cannot 
reasonably be regarded as omniscient. The idea of a Mind which is simul- 
taneously omniscient in its timeless or universal aspect and limited in 
the knowledge possessed by its differentiations in time is one which I cannot 
grasp or think it reasonable to postulate. In his more recent Some Dogmas 
of Religion Dr. McTaggart has attempted to meet my difficulty in a some- 
what different way. I may refer to my review of this work in Mind (N. S., 
Vol. XV, No. 60) as an apology for not having dealt in this place with a system 
which, though to my mind involving far more difficulties and improbabilities 
than Theism, seems to me the only non-theistic system which it is difficult 
to meet with an absolutely conclusive metaphysical refutation. 

2 I should equally strongly assert the necessity for admitting the existence 
in God of feeling, without which, indeed, the idea of Will is unintelligible, 
but the argument does not require that I should here insist upon this 

Chap, i, vij WILL THE ONLY CAUSE 227 

we must recognize the ultimate cause or ground of the world's 
existence and of all the other spirits which (with Him) form the 
totality of real Being in the Universe. 

And this line of thought is supported by another to which 
I can now only barely allude the argument which (accepting 
from Hume the position that we can discern no such thing as 
Causality in external nature) refuses to accept the denial that in 
our own minds we are immediately conscious of exercising 
Causality, and sees in will the only actual realization of that 
causal idea which is as essential a category of our thought 
as the idea of Substance or the idea of Quantity. It is a self- 
evident axiom of our thought that everythiug which begins to be 
must haye a caus. The only cause that we immediately know 
of is the self. If the events of the Universe are not caused 
by myself or by any human or other self of similarly limited 
capacity, it is reasonable to infer that they are caused by some 
other spiritual being or beings, and the order and consistency 
which we discover in Nature is a reason for supposing that the 
cause of natural events is not many such beings but one Being. 
The idealistic argument and the argument from Causality thus 
support one another: both lead to the conclusion that the 
natural Universe exists only in and for a mind which is both 
Thought and Will l . 

This bare sketch of the argument on which theistic Meta- 
physicians rely for the proof of their idea of God will not of 
course be sufficient to explain it to those to whom it has pre- 

point. I may add that I quite recognize the impossibility of supposing that 
Thought, Feeling, and Will stand side by side one another and occupy 
exactly the same relation to one another in God as they do in us, but each 
of these aspects of Experience which even presuppose one another has 
as good a right as the others to be taken as revealing aspects of the Divine 

1 I have explained and defended the idealistic Theism here assumed in 
a volume of Essays ('by six Oxford Tutors*) entitled Contetttio Veritatis 
(1902) and in an Essay on the 'Personality of God' in Personal Idealism 
(edited by Mr. H. Sturt, 1902), but I am, of course, aware that these two 
Essays taken together form a very inadequate sketch of a religious Philo- 
sophy. I may refer to Prof. James Ward's Naturalism and Agnosticism 
and Prof. Pfleiderer'g Philosophy of Religion for a fuller development of 
the line of thought here suggested. 


viously been unfamiliar. Still less will it remove the objections of 
those by whom it has been considered and rejected. These few 
sentences must be regarded merely as a personal confession 
of faith as a bare statement of the grounds by which the 
present writer is led to the belief that the view of the Universe 
which our moral consciousness demands is also the view to which 
we are led by an examination of all other parts of our experi- 
ence in short, that the postulates of Ethics are identical with 
the conclusions of Metaphysic. The fact that our moral con- 
sciousness demands the idea of God as the source of our own 
moral ideas and the justification of their objective validity lends 
additional and independent support to these conclusions. 


Though our idea of God cannot be built up on the basis of the 
moral consciousness taken by itself, the moral consciousness does 
contribute one most important element to that idea. That the 
Universe has its ultimate ground in a Spirit who must be thought 
of as Will, Reason, and Feeling 1 , is a view which a rational 
Ethic presupposes, but which it cannot by itself be held to 
establish. It is established, I believe, by metaphysical considera- 
tions. But a purely metaphysical analysis (so long as it excludes 
from its purview the data supplied by the moral consciousness) 
can tell us nothing further about the nature or purposes of that 
Spirit. That the Universe has a purpose is, indeed, implied in 
the assertion that it is the work of Reason. The mere analysis 
of the causal idea may lead us to the belief that it must have an end. 
No conception of Causality will satisfy that demand for a cause 
or * sufficient reason ' set up by Reason, in its attempt to explain the 
world, which does not include final Causality. Even in setting up 
the bare, abstract idea of a final cause Reason has already, indeed, 

1 To discuss in what way these three activities are related to each other 
in God is no part of my present task, though after all little could be said 
except that we do not and cannot know. I fully accept Mr. Bradley's 
demonstration that we cannot think of God's thought as consisting in the 
clumsy processes of abstraction and inference from immediate feeling which 
are involved in human knowledge. But the divine experience must include 
elements analogous to those which present themselves in our experience in 
these three distinguishable ways. 


gone beyond the region of merely speculative activity,and borrowed 
a concept from the moral consciousness an important warning 
against the attempt to erect sharp barriers between the specu- 
lative and the ethical activity of the one spiritual self. For the 
idejjuof- affinal cause implies the distinction between ends $nd 
means, and that distinction the distinction between that which 
is brought into being for the sake of something else and that 
which we value and seek to produce for its own sake is entirely 
unintelligible apart from that idea of Value or Worth which we 
have seen to be the root-idea of the moral consciousness. The 
distinction between means and end lies not in the fact that the 
former precede the latter, but in the fact that the former is 
valued for the sake of the latter. Even therefore the pro- 
position that the world has a purpose is one at which the purely 
speculative reason is incompetent to arrive in entire abstraction 
from the Practical Reason. It is one for which Logic or Meta- 
physic must be held indebted to Moral Philosophy, or rather 
it can only be arrived at by that wider Metaphysic which in- 
cludes the study of the moral nature of man in its due relation 
to the other sides of the one Reality. But if, in the ordinary 
sense of the words, the considerations which lead us to the idea 
that the world has an end are rather logical and metaphysical 
than ethical, it is certain that, apart from the facts of the moral 
consciousness, it could say nothing whatever as to the nature 
of that end, or as to the character of the Being whose end it 
is. Hence speculative Reason, if it attempts to answer that 
problem at all, must borrow not merely from the form but from 
the content of the moral consciousness. 

Is such a borrowing justifiable ? It has been assumed through- 
out this chapter that it is, and we have already added on the 
strength of it the postulate of Immortality to those of self and 
God. But it is of great importance to define the exact sense in 
which we are prepared to say, not only that the world has a purpose, 
but that we know what that purpose is. It is right to insist (as 
has been done by Von Hartmann) that the mere idea that the 
world has a purpose is of infinite value for Ethics, even if we did 
not regard our moral ideal as disclosing the nature of that pur- 
pose, For, if the world has a purpose at all, the ideal which 


presents itself to us as a necessity of thought must be m some 
rcay included in the purpose. The realization of our ideals may 
not be the ultimate end of the Universe, but it must at least be 
% means to that end, and it would be difficult to suppose that it 
was merely a mean, and not one of those means which (like 
most of the means which we employ in human life) is also a part 
sf the end. Arid this would be enough to give an objective 
significance and validity to our judgements of value which they 
3ould not possess upon a non-teleological view of the Universe. 
But the suggestion that what presents itself as a necessity of 
ethical thought may nevertheless turn out to contain no revela- 
bion as to the ultimate nature of things seems to me to be as 
entirely gratuitous and unreasonable as any other kind of 
ultimate scepticism. To infer from the existence of our own 
moral consciousness the existence of a good-in-itself or good 
from the point of view of the Universe, and then to say that 
our ideas of good tell us nothing about that good-in-itself, seems 
just as unreasonable as it would be to declare that the laws 
of Mathematics are valid only relatively to us, that they convey 
to us a mere knowledge of phenomena which may turn out to be 
a mere self-consistent system of error containing no information 
as to the real nature of the Universe or ' things-in-themselves.' 
It is suggested in many quarters 1 that, while the category of good 
is one which is valid for God as well as for man, the whole con- 
tent of that category as it works in us might turn out to be 
a complete illusion, and that consequently no one of our moral 
judgements, even the most fundamental, can be supposed to 
be valid for all intelligences and therefore for God. That seems 
to be very like arguing that the category of Causality or of 
Quantity may, indeed, be regarded as unconditionally valid 
for all intelligences, but that no single concrete conclusion of 
Mathematics or Physical Science can reasonably be supposed 
to represent anything but a way of thinking which is imposed 
upon ourselves by the constitution of human nature, but which 
contains no information at all as to the real nature of things or 
the real content of the Mind which expresses itself in Nature. 

1 A more detailed criticism of the writers in question will be found in the 
next chapter. 


The ethical scepticism of the present day seems to be repeating 
all the mistakes of the Kantian ' Phenomenalism ' the very side 
of the Kantian Philosophy which, in other departments of 
thought, modern Metaphysicians are most generally agreed to 
give up. \Ke have every bit as much right to assume that the 
conclusions to which we are led by the proper use of our ethical 
faculty are valid for God and for all intelligences as we have for 
assuming that the laws of pure Mathematics and the calculations 
which are based upon those laws must be no mere local prejudice 
of a particular race of human beings who have flourished during 
a ' brief and transitory episode in the life of one of the meanest 
of the planets V but part of the eternal nature of things. Our 
Moral Eeason is the same Reason as that which gives us the laws 
of thought, and the concrete results which flow from them, though 
a different side or aspect of that Reason. And we have every 
right to say that the judgements derived from both sides or 
activities of our Reason must be equally a revelation of that 
objective truth which is ultimately the thought of God. 

Of course there is all the difference in the world between the 
assertion that in principle our moral faculty is an organ of truth 
and contains a revelation of Reality and the assertion that 
infallibility may be claimed for any particular moral judgement 
of any particular person. We may make mistakes in Morality 
just as we may make mistakes in Science or even in pure 
Mathematics. I trust I have already insisted sufficiently upon 
this distinction. In so constantly comparing the judgement 
of Morality to those of Mathematics, I do not mean to imply 
that the possibilities of error are in practice as small in the one 
case as in the other. It may be admitted at once that these 
possibilities are very much greater in the case of Ethics. 

I will not ask at the present moment in what amount of 
uncertainty or inadequacy the truths of Physical Science may 
be involved by the speculative principle that to know anything 
thoroughly you must know all its relations and therefore must 
know the Universe as a whole. Mathematical truth is of so 
abstract a character, the abstraction so complete, and the limita- 
tion which that abstraction places to the application of its 
1 Balfour, The Foundations of Belief, ed. ii, p. 33. 


results so clearly discernible that there seems no re&son for 
supposing that the fullest knowledge would ever reveal any 
actual error in conclusions arrived at by what human Reason 
recognizes as the valid use of the Categories and self-evident 
principles of Mathematics. They avowedly express only one 
particular aspect or side of Reality ; but there is no reason 
to suspect that this one-sided ness involves positive error. They 
are one-sided, but the one-sidedness does not involve actual 
falsity just because the limits within which the truth holds 
good are so well understood. In Physics the liability to error 
is greater, both because of the imperfection of the experience 
on which the conclusions rest, and because by the mind of 
a particular enquirer at a certain stage or level of scientific 
development the one-sidedness and abstractness of the particular 
department of truth with which each special Science is concerned 
are not so sure to be remembered, allowed for, and corrected. 
But even here the errors arising from incomplete knowledge 
are errors which in the progress of knowledge human thought 
may hope to correct. The admission of these possibilities of 
error does not involve an indictment against human Reason 
as such, still less Mr. Bradley 's paradox that all thought, just 
because it is thought, is necessarily false to an unknown and 
unknowable extent l . 

Absolute certainty and completeness of knowledge is, no 
doubt, when you have got beyond the most abstract truths of 
Mathematics, unattainable enough ; but it is a goal to which 
we are continually approximating, and to which we may hope 
to approximate more and more nearly as we reach conclusions 
of the most general character, and conclusions which rest upon 
the largest mass of experience. The possibility of inadequacy, 
and such error as may be involved in inadequacy, does not 
justify the position that Science itself possesses a merely relative 
or subjective or human or phenomenal validity. Now, when 
we turn to Morality, we must acknowledge this peculiarity 
of ethical truth, that in an exceptional degree ignorance of the 
whole may involve mistake in any particular judgement. To 

1 Of course I am omitting here the explanations and reservations by which 
the paradox is qualified. 


claim absolute certainty and absolute adequacy for a judgement 
as to what a man ought to do in any given collocation of 
circumstances, it would be necessary for the individual to have 
a complete knowledge of all that is contained in the moral ideal 
as well as a complete knowledge of all those facts and laws 
which may possibly affect the suitability of the means adopted 
to promote that ideal on any particular occasion. He would 
have to know that the particular end which he is now aiming 
at is a part or element of the ideal end, that it is a more 
important part or element or representative of the ideal end 
than any other particular object at which in the given circum- 
stance he might aim, and also that the particular means that 
he adopts are the best adapted to attain that end. I need 
not insist on the impossibility of attaining in practice any such 
certainty. Our judgement as to the relation of means to ends 
may always be mistaken ; our judgements as to the value of any 
particular element in that end, and still more as to its relative 
value as compared with other elements, may be erroneous and 

And there are many other circumstances which tend to make 
impossible in Ethics the kind of certainty and adequacy which 
is practically attainable in the region of pure Mathematics or 
even of the concrete Physical Sciences -the dependence of moral 
judgement upon the emotional, aesthetic, and other capacities 
of the individual pronouncing them ; the difficulty of explaining 
and communicating to others the results of any one individual's 
moral experience ; the difficulty of distinguishing between real 
judgements of our Reason and the dictates of passion or impulse ; 
the absence (when we go beyond certain very broad generalities) 
of even an approximate consensus, and the like. But all these 
admissions throw no doubt upon the validity of our moral 
thought as such, and supply no ground for the suggestion 
that from the point of view of God or the Universe our existing 
moral code might turn out to be precisely the contradictory of 
the true. It is impossible to define the limits of the possible 
discrepancy between our moral judgements and the perfect 
moral ideal as it exists in the mind of God. We can only 
say that in proportion as ethical truth becomes more and more 


general, more and more universally admitted by developed minds, 
more and more internally consistent and coherent, we approach the 
same kind of practical certainty which we justifiably claim for the 
main conclusions of Science or History. The judgement that there 
is a good is a necessity of thought as much as the principle that 
for whatever happens in the Universe there must be a cause, 
though there are individuals who have denied both truths. 
That this good is the ultimate aim of the Universe is a proposi- 
tion which rests upon the same kind of evidence as the belief 
that the world and our knowledge of it can only be explained 
by the existence of a universal Spirit in whom are united 
Thought, Will, and Feeling. When we come to the detailed 
filling up of this formal idea of Good, and still more to 
the question of the means to be taken to realize that good, there 
is room for much difference in the degree of certainty and 
adequacy which we ascribe to our judgements. When I pronounce 
that the election of a particular candidate at an election will 
promote the true, ultimate end of the Universe, I may myself 
see many grounds for doubt and hesitation even at the moment 
that I make up my mind that it is my duty to vote for him. 
And I know that many sensible and virtuous persons will vote 
for his opponent. It is extremely probable therefore that I may 
be mistaken. That my judgement as to the exact degree of 
relative importance which we should in our own lives or in 
that of the community assign to the promotion of Art and 
to the prevention of physical suffering corresponds exactly with 
the degree of relative importance which a perfect moral intelli- 
gence would assign to them is no doubt extremely improbable, 
though I may hope that the limits of probable error may be 
relatively small. But when we come to such extremely general 
propositions as that pleasures, or some pleasures, are better 
than pain, or that love is better than hatred, then we may claim 
for such judgements exactly the same practical certainty as we 
do for the law of gravitation or for the proposition that an 
event called the Norman Conquest actually occurred. There 
may no doubt be a sense in which all scientific knowledge 
may be regarded as abstract, and therefore inadequate to 
the reality; in that sense moral ideals may be imperfect and 

Chap, i, viii] DIFFICULTY OF EVIL 235 

6 abstract/ but to say that in the Absolute our judgement 
that cruelty and pain are bad must be turned into the 
judgement that thy are very good would be like saying 
that in or for the Absolute the denial of universal gravitation 
is as true as its affirmation. 

Doubtless the judgements of a particular individual as to 
a particular moral question may be mistaken and his whole 
ideal narrow and one-sided. Doubtless the highest ideal that 
is at this moment entertained by the most perfect ethical intelli- 
gence living on this planet represents but a part of the whole 
aim and plan at which the Universe is aiming; but we have 
every reason for asserting, and no reason at all for doubting, that 
the moral ideal which is summed up in Humanity's highest ideal 
of J1PJ versal T*we y and in a certain estimate of the relative values 
to be assigned to the various goods which this Love will promote, 
does represent a revelation, ever growing and developing, of 
the ideal which is present to the mind of God and towards 
which therefore the Universe is directed. 


To consider all the difficulties, real or imaginary, which may 
be found in the view of ultimate Reality which is here pre- 
supposed, would lead us further into the province of Metaphysic 
and religious Philosophy than lies within the scope of this work, 
but there is one difficulty so obvious and so fundamental that 
it seems scarcely honest to pass it over without indicating the 
general lines on which in a metaphysical treatise I should 
attempt to deal with it. I~tl^world is rational, how (it will 
be asked) can we account for the presence of so much which our 
moral consciousness pronounces to be evil, and which, if our view 
of the relation between the human consciousness and the divine 
be right, we may suppose to be evil also for the mind of God ? 

To attempt to show empirically the necessity of evil in the 
world is a task which I for one have not the smallest inclination 
to attempt. It is true that we can show without difficulty how 
some of what we call wil in this world, as it is actually consti- 
tuted, is the condition of the goad. We can see that much good 
implies a struggle against both, moral- and, physicoije vil ; and 


that that dependence of one individual upon another out of 
which arise all the higher moral or social qualities of man 
implies also the possibility of constant injury and injustice, 
and the like. Goodness 13 developed .by .opposition ; happiness, 
as we know it, depends on the satisfaction of wants which imply 
imperfection and, in their intenser form, positive pain, and so on. 
But it is not so much the existence as the nature and quantity and 
distribution of evil in the world that constitute the difficulty. 
So much evil seems wholly unnecessary: so much smaller a 
measure of it in quantity and quality would have sufficed, so 
far as we can see, to satisfy these necessities. A different dis- 
tribution of it would seem far more conducive to the highest 
welfare of humanity than the present distribution of it. Even 
to attempt to show that there is more good than evil in the 
world whether the good be understood in a some higher ethical 
or in the purely hedonistic sense would be a very bold under- 
taking. If we were to confine ourselves to empirical evidence 
alone, I confess that I should see very little to lead us to the 
conclusion that the world was even good ' on the whole/ or that 
it had any good end or object in the future. From this point 
of view the complaints of the more moderate Pessimists only seem 
to me exaggerated. It is not when they insist on the existence 
of evil in the world or even on its amount, but when they 
insist on the non-existence of good, the impossibility of happiness 
even for some, the worthlessness and vanity of the best that this 
world affords, that their diatribes seem to represent merely the 
idiosyncrasies or circumstances of the particular writer. It is 
only the evidence of the moral consciousness, taken in con- 
nexion with the idealistic or theistic argument as a whole, 
that forces us to believe that the world must have an end, that 
that end is good, and that the good is in principle the same good 
of which, in the moral judgements of the developed moral nature, 
we have a doubtless inadequate but not fundamentally misleading 
revelation. On this supposition whatever evil exists in the world 
must be supposed to exist because it is a necessary means to the 
greatest good that the nature of things makes possible. 



But, it will be said, in thus talking about the best possible, 
in justifying the world's existence because it is good on the 
whole* in speaking of evil as the condition of good, are we not 
limiting God ? I answer : ' If Omnipotence is to be understood 
as ability to do anything that we choose to fancy, I do not 
assert God's Omnipotence/ I am content to say with sober 
divines like Bishop Butler that there may be some things 
which, with adequate knowledge, we should see to be as im- 
possible as that God should change the past. And if it be urged 
that the existence of conditions limiting the possibilities of 
the divine Will is inconsistent with the idea of a God who 
is infinite, I answer that neither Religion nor Morality nor, 
again, reasonable Philosophy have any interest in maintaining 
the infiniteness of God in the sense in which a certain tradition 
of the schools is accustomed to assert it 1 . The limitation must not 
be conceived of as a limitation imposed by the existence of some 
other ' being ' some other spirit or a { matter ' with definite 
properties and an intractable nature of its own. The suggestion 
that a limit necessarily springs from without is due to that 
ever-present source of metaphysical error, the abuse of special 
metaphor. The limitations must be conceived of as part of the 
ultimate nature of things. All that really exists must have some 
limits to its existence ; space and time are unlimited or infinite 
just because they are not real existences. And the ultimate nature 
of things means, for the Idealist, the nature of God. All that 
we are concerned with from the ethical point of view is that 
Gpd should be regarded as willing a Universe that is the best 
that seems possible to a Mind to whom all the possibilities of 

1 I am pleased to read in a work by a learned Theologian of unimpeach- 
able orthodoxy, the Dean of Christ Church : ' This word [Infinite] is purely 
negative in its associations ; it means literally nothing but the absence 
of all limits. And there is nothing in it to show that it does not include 
the absence of all positive existence. Positive existence involves limitations 
of a certain kind ; it is impossible to imagine a being who has not some 
definite character, i.e. who is not also necessarily without certain other 
definite characters, and if all positive characteristics are equally derogatory 
to an Infinite Being, there is nothing for it but to deny His existence ' 
(Strong, Manual of Theology (1892), p. 203). 


things are known, and who wills the existence of all that is 
actual because he knows it to bg best. 

I cannot here discuss all the objections which have been urged 
against the idea of possibilities which cannot be realized. Putting 
aside for the moment the question of human Free-will (which 
I reserve for later treatment), I should admit that this possibility 
is merely a possibility when looked upon from the point of view 
of limited, human knowledge. To perfect knowledge nothing 
could seem possible except that which is or will be actual. 

Doubtless a God so conceived is not the traditional Infinite or 
Absolute of Philosophy. The Absolute is the Being which alone 
truly is and of which all other beings may be treated as 
attributes or predicates. Our consciousness cannot intelligibly 
be treated as the mere attribute or predicate of another con- 
sciousness. The Infinite is that Being besides which and beyond 
which no being exists : our consciousness cannot intelligibly be 
treated as included in or a part of a divine consciousness, though 
undoubtedly there is a totality of Being in which both are com- 
prehended. Even a single moment of consciousness whether the 
most evanescent sensation of an amoeba or a moment of highest 
insight in the soul of Plato possesses a certain uniqueness, and 
is no mere predicate or adjective of something else, though it is 
also an element in, and so far supplies a predicate of, a larger 
being 1 . Still less can a permanent and conscious self, combining 
together and relating to one another a succession of such unique 
experiences, be treated as the same thing as another more 
comprehensive consciousness, no matter how well the content 
of the lesser consciousness is known to, or ' penetoated ' by, 
the greater. The notion that God includes in Himself all the 
individual selves of the Universe seems to have arisen chiefly 
from a forgetfulness of the essential difference between our 
knQwJ^dge of a thing and our knowledge of other selves. Jk 
thing is simply what it is for the mind that knows it ; it exists 
for other, not for itself ; what it is for the experience of a mind 
is therefore its total being. The essential characteristic of 
a conscious self is that it exists not for others only, but for 

1 That is, in the sense in which we may speak of that which is included 
in a whole as qualifying that whole. 

Dhap.i, ix] GOD NOT THE ABSOLUTE 339 

itself. Its true being is not merely what it is for another mind 
that knows it, but what it is for itself. Uniqueness belongs 
to the very essence of consciousness. The ' content ' of the 
consciousness may be shared by another consciousness, may 
be common to many minds ; but this is only because a c content ' 
consists of abstract universal qualities taken apart from the being 
whose experience they describe. The content is ' common ' to 
many minds just because in speaking of it we have made abstrac- 
tion of the uniqueness which belongs to the experience when it 
was living, present, conscious experience, not yet reduced to 
abstract universals by the analytic work of thought. Two 
minds may experience, as we say, the ' same ' sensation because, 
in calling the sensation the same, we have made abstraction 
of the fact that two people have experienced it. The blueness 
of which I think is a universal experienced by many minds ; 
blueness as it is actually felt belongs only to the mind that feels 
it. Even the blueness that I think is the same with what 
another mind thinks only in respect of its content; the fact 
remains that my thinking of it and the thinking of it by my 
neighbour, as pieces of conscious experience, are different. 
Thoughts as abstract contents are common to many minds ; 
thinking as a psychological phenomenon is always peculiar 
to one mind. But the Reality of the world is not abstract 
content, but living experience. Further discussion on this 
question must be reserved for other occasions. I can only hero 
indicate the view that one mind or conscious experience cannot 
fojrm a part of another mind. 

The Absolute cannot be identified with God, so long as God 
is thought of as a self-conscious Being. The Absolute must 
include God and all other consciousnesses, not as isolated and 
unrelated beings, but as intimately related (in whatever way) 
to Him and to one another and as forming with Him a system 
or Unity. And, in so far as God is not any of these spirits 
(when once they have come into being), however they may 
be ultimately related to Him, He is not, in the most obvious 
sense of the word, infinite. We may, if we like, call Qodmfinite 
in the sense that there is no other Being but what proceeds 
ultimately from His will and has its source or ground in Him ; 


and this seems to be all that is meant by many of those who are 
attached to the term ; but the term ' infinite ' would seem more 
properly to belong to that Absolute which includes God and other 
spirits. It may even be doubted whether it is well to apply the 
term infinite to anything but space and time (which are not real 
beings), and whether it is possible to apply it to anything that 
has real being without being more or less misled in our inter- 
pretation of the term by the analogy of space and time. There 
must be a definite amount of Being in the world l . Whether we 
say that from some point of view transcending time there is 
eternally a definite amount which can be neither increased 
nor diminished, or whether we content ourselves with maintain- 
ing that at any one moment there is a definite amount of Being 
in the world, will depend upon the view we take of that most 
difficult of all metaphysical problems the ultimate nature of 
time 2 . Avoiding any attempt to deal in a summary way with 
that profound question, I will only say that io^JPay view 
metaphysical and ethical considerations alike require us to 
recognize a real distinction between God and the lesser spirits 
wlio derive their being from Him, yet remain in intimate relation 
to and dependence upon Him, and with Him make up the totality 
of real Being in the world. If we must use a word which might 
well be dispensed with, God and the spirits are the Absolute 
not God alone. Together they form a Unity, but that Unity 
is not the unity of self -consciousness ; nor can it, without serious 
danger of misunderstanding, be thought of as even analogous 

1 We might of course say that the Absolute is infinite in so far as 
time and space form aspects of its being. It will be observed that I do 
not here assert that God is finite, for experience shows that (in spite of all 
protests and explanations) it is impossible to use the term without being 
supposed by careless or prejudiced critics to imply the idea that God is limited 
by a plurality of independent, unoriginated, and isolated centres of con- 
sciousness, and provoking pleasantries about polytheism and the like. 

2 The notion that the total amount of ' Being ' in the world cannot be 
increased seems to arise either (i) from a mere misapplication of the 
physical doctrine of the indestructibility of Matter, or (2) from taking 
1 Being* to mean not consciousness but the ultimate ground of consciousness. 
That the amount of ' consciousness ' or * conscious being ' in the Universe is 
increased or diminished at different times is a truth which we prove every 
time we go to sleep, 


to that personal unity which is characteristic of consciousness 
in the highest form in which we know it. 

I cannot but suspect that thoseLwho insist that all minds are 
ulimately_Qjje, with, each other and with the divine mind are 
partly under the influence of a confusion between ' consciousness ' 
and ' mind ' understood in some sense in which it is regarded not as 
equivalent to consciousness or the conscious, but as the ultimate 
ground or basis of consciousness. That a certain unity of ' sub- 
stance ' or ' essence ' may be ascribed to all minds in the Universe 
is an intelligible proposition. And there is no harm in such 
language if we can only keep the idea of Substance free from 
spacial and naturalistic associations, and also interpret it 
in such a way as not to exclude the idea of * activity' or 
' power ' or * will/ It is no doubt quite true that every con- 
sciousness in the Universe at every moment of its existence, 
while it may be looked upon as itself power or will, must 
also be looked upon as an effect or manifestation of the 
single Will to which all things and all spirits owe their being, 
though qua consciousness it is distinct from that and every other 
consciousness. From this point of view the * unity of substance ' 
doctrine expresses only what the old Theology expressed in 
holding that the world (including souls) was upheld by a 
continuous act of divine conservation. 

The ultimate Being, we may say, is One a single Power, 
if we like we may even say a single Being, who is manifested 
in a plurality of consciousnesses, one consciousness which is 
omniscient and eternal, and many consciousnesses which are 
of limited knowledge, which have a beginning and some of 
which, it is possible or probable, have an end. We may, if 
we like, regard all the separate ' centres of consciousness ' as 
' manifestations ' of a single Being ; but if so, we must distinctly 
remember, if we are Idealists and refuse to regard as ultimately 
real any being which is not conscious, that this * Being ' has 
no existence except in the separate centres. God may be con- 
ceived of as the cause or source of all the centres except Himself, 
and may know them through and through ; but to deny that 
qua consciousness He is distinguishable from those other centres 
of consciousness represents a line of thought which, when 



thoroughly followed out, must end (as historically it always does 
end) either in the denial of all reality, permanence, independence, 
or personality to the individual souls and the reduction of all 
individuality to a mere delusive appearance, or to a conception 
of God which no longer includes the idea of self -consciousness 
at all. And both ideas God and the self are necessary to 
Morality and to any Religion that is to be consistent with the 
demands of our moral consciousness. 

The ethical importance of this view of the relation between 
God and individual souls, which it is impossible here further 
to develope or to defend, lies in the following considerations : 
(a) Only where a real distinction can be recognized between 
fjip. individual minds to which it has given 

being can .we attribute good or bad acts to the individual man 
without attributing them in the same sense and degree to God. 
Whether in any more ultimate sense God may or may not be 
regarded as the cause of our good and bad actions is a question 
which I reserve for separate treatment. I only insist here that 
there must be a real meaning in regarding them as acts of the 

(6) Only if it is recognized that our moral judgements.are 
expressive of the real nature of things, and that therefore 
the evil of the world is not evil merely from our point of view, 
is there an intelligible meaning in ascribing to God the character 
which our moral consciousness recognizes as good. The ethical 
necessity of this conception has already been dealt with. 

(c) Only where it is recognized that God's action, though 
directed to the best that is possible, is limited by those eternal 
necessities which are part of his own eternal nature, is it possible 
to combine the assertion of iiis moral perfection with the 
recognition of real objective validity in those judgements of 
our moral consciousness which pronounce many things in the 
world to be intrinsically evil, however much they may ultimately 
be conducive to a higher good. Only,, when this is admitted, 
does it become possible to acknowledge that a rightly directed 
human action, is conducive to the true, abjective good of the 
Universe, If it be supposed that bad actions, just in proportion 
are actually committed, tend to the good of the Universe 

Chap, i, ixfj REALITY OF EVIL 243 

as much .as good ones, we immediately remove all motive for 
abstaining from any so-called bad act to which we may be 
inclined. On such a hypothesis the fact that the bad act occurs 
is a sufficient proof that a good act in the like place would have 
retarded the true end of the Universe. On this view there 
is no answer to the suggestion that it were well to * continue 
in sin that grace may abound/ On our view the bad may 
be the necessary means to a greater good, but it remains bad 
all the same. The Universe without that act (had its absence 
been possible or in accordance with the actual nature of the 
world) would have been better still. The whole value of Meta- 
physic or Theology to Ethics lies in its allowing us to ascribe an 
objective significance to the moral law. And this objective 
significance is destroyed the moment it is admitted that what 
our moral Reason pronounces, and rightly pronounces, to be bad 
may nevertheless from the point of view of a higher and 
completer view be very good. A Metaphysic that is optimistic 
in this sense is as fruitful a source of acute demoralization as 
the Theology which makes moral distinctions depend upon 
the arbitary will of God l . In certain of their manifestations 
the two forms of thought tend to become absolutely indis- 
tinguishable. Once let it be admitted that a bad act can under 
no conceivable circumstances really take anything away from 
the true good of the Universe or be really opposed to the 
ultimate aim of the Spirit to which the Universe owes its being, 
and Morality, as it presents itself to the unsophisticated moral 
consciousness, exists no more 2 . Hence to the three postulates 

1 I confess I feel strongly tempted to adopt the words of Schopenhauer : 
' I cannot here avoid the statement that, to me, optimism, when it is not 
merely the thoughtless talk of such as harbour nothing but words under 
their low foreheads, appears not merely as an absurd, but also as a really 
wicked way of thinking, as a bitter mockery of the unspeakable suffering of 
humanity* (The World as Will and Idea, Eng. Trans., I. 420). Of course 
Optimism must here be understood to mean the belief that the world and 
everything in it are perfectly good not the creed that the world on the 
whole is tending towards the good. 

2 The point of view against which I protest is forcibly expressed by 
Prof. Taylor : * Hence for Religion the classification of acts and men as 
"good" and "bad" must appear unsatisfactory and superficial. For, on 
the one hand, ultimately all acts and all characters are good as fulfilling, 

R 1 


of Ethics which I have already enumerated I propose to add 
a fourth the negation of Optimism, the assertion that not 
everything in the Universe is very good, and that the distinction 
between good and evil belongs to the real nature of things and 
npt merely to appearance. 


I am quite aware how incomplete such a treatment of the 
relation between Metaphysics and Ethics as the present must be in 
the absence of a complete discussion of those logical and meta- 
physical questions as to the relation of knowledge to Reality 
which lie at the root of the whole matter. On that momentous 
question I will only make one remark. That all our human know- 
ledge is inadequate to express the true nature of the ultimate 
Reality will be universally admitted by Metaphysicians of almost 

each in its own place, the perfect world system, and on the other every act 
and every character is bad as failing to realise the perfect world-system in 
more than an infinitesimal fragment of its concrete fullness. Religion thus 
knows nothing of merit and demerit. Instead of the customary classification 
of men as on the one hand respectable and good, and on the other hand as 
disreputable and bad, it substitutes a double estimate according to which, on 
the one hand, the outcast and the sinner are already, as members of the 
perfect world order, really perfect if they only had the faith to perceive it, and 
on the other all men alike the man of rigid virtue and strict habits no less 
than the reprobate are equally condemned and equally guilty before God ' 
(The Problem of Conduct, pp. 473, 474). But why the qualification I have 
italicized ? On the premisses they must be as good whether they have faith 
to perceive it or not ; and some (perhaps fortunately) have not this faith. 
Optimism always breaks down somewhere. If Professor Taylor means that 
the world is equally perfect whether they perceive it or not, he has omitted 
to show that they are likely to be the better if they do perceive it, and if he 
admits that they are not, he has failed to point out any ultimate justification 
for the relative authority (as regards human beings) which he himself claims 
for Morality. If Religion (as Professor Taylor assumes) makes men think 
a bad act to be really (if actually committed) equally conducive to the true 
end of the Universe with a good one, and so more likely to commit bad acts, 
what right have men (on whom human Morality is, by his own admission, 
binding) to be religious ? 

It is instructive to notice that Dr. McTaggart has now retracted his 
former view as to the perfection of the Universe. To any reader who is 
unsatisfied by this slight and fragmentary treatment of the question I may 
commend Dr. MeTaggart's chapter on * God as Omnipotent * in Some Dogmas 
of Religion. As to Professor Taylor's change of view, see below, p. 285. 


all schools, The only serious question must be as to the kind and 
the degree of the inadequacy, and as to the answer that is given 
to the enquiry how far it is possible to arrive at any clearer and 
more adequate knowledge of Reality by denying and seeking 
to ' transcend/ as the phrase is, distinctions which are admittedly 
inherent in the very nature and constitution of human thought. 
That question will be further dealt with in the following chapter, 
but meanwhile there is one particular source of imperfection 
in our knowledge to which a momentary reference must be made. 
It will, doubtless, be contended that my argument has assumed 
the absolute validity of our ideas of Time. Here, too, the real 
problem is as to the amount and kind of inadequacy which 
is involved in this particular condition of human thought. 
What I should contend, if I had the opportunity, would be 
that our time-distinctions must express, however inadequately, 
the true nature of Reality, and that the attempt to think of 
Reality as out of time or timeless is certain to lead us further 
astray from the truth than the assertion that time-distinctions 
are valid, though we cannot tell in what way they present 
themselves to God or how far they express the full truth about 
Reality as a whole. If the position that Reality is out of time 
makes it impossible to ascribe objective validity to our judge- 
ments of value, compels us to distort and virtually contradict 
the ethical part of our thought, and forbids us to give its proper 
weight to that side of our nature in our speculative construction 
of ultimate Reality, that is one further objection to such 
theories. The doctrine of a timeless Reality makes the world's 
history unmeaning and all human effort vain. The Buddhists, 
whose Creed is often patronized by our modern believers in 
a timeless Absolute, at least have the merit of admitting that 
corollary of their system, however much inconsistency and 
contradiction there may be in the anti-social ascetic's effort 
to escape from effort. The Western who uses this language 
about the vanity of all that is temporal neither believes it nor 
acts as if he believed it. Time and its distinctions, as we know 
them, may not express the whole truth about the Universe and 
the ultimate spiritual ground of it, but at least they must express 
more of it than a to us meaningless negation like tiinelessness. 


If there be any meaning in the idea of transcending time- 
distinctions, that meaning must be something other than that 
of merely negating and abolishing them, and it is only on 
the assumption that from the point of view of absolute knowledge 
time-distinctions are simply negated and abolished that the 
temporal character of our moral thinking can be used as 
an argument for denying its objective validity and refusing 
to admit the postulates which that objective validity carries 
with it. 


So much prominence has been given to the doctrine of the ( timeless self ' 
in the writings of Green and his disciples that it seems hardly possible 
to pass over the matter altogether, though a full discussion of it does 
not enter into the plan of this work. The doctrine seems to me to be 
mainly traceable to the following misconceptions and confusions : 

(1) The necessity, for knowledge, of a permanent self, persisting through 
change, is often treated as proving what is quite a different thing a self 
which is out of time altogether. 

(2) The doctrine is founded upon the fact that for two events, past and 
present, to enter into and become the basis of knowledge, they must 
be compared together, and to be compared they must both in a sense 
be 'present 1 to the mind which compares them. But this presence is 
a presence in idea: to make the reality of a past event consist in its 
presence to my mind now would involve a worse extravagance than can 
be attributed to any sort of ' subjective Idealism ' that has ever been 
explicitly maintained. It is no doubt real as an 'idea in my headland 
considered as an ' idea in my head ' it has its own time, the present, which 
is different from the time in which the event which I think really 
occurred. There is, no doubt, in the judgement a reference to reality 
to the real event, but the real event is not my judgement about it or any 
present experience of mine. Prom this point of view the doctrine repre- 
sents a monstrous distortion of the ultimate fact that a being who is now 
in one time can know events which were in another time. This may or may 
not be difficult or unintelligible or mysterious, but it is not made more 
intelligible by using language which plainly distorts the facts. I did 
not exist in the eighteenth century because I can know events which 
occurred at that period, nor am I now in the nineteenth century because 
some of my personal experience occurred in that century. 

(3) Another way in which the idea of a 'timeless self seems to be 
arrived at is by a mistaken inference from the discovery that the relations 

Chap, i, x, Note] THE TIMELESS SELF 247 

between facts are themselves not in time at all. The fact that A occurred 
after B is not a fact which can be said to be in A's time or B's time or 
in both together. The relation of posteriority is out of time altogether. But 
then it is forgotten that this relation of A to B taken apart from A and B 
themselves is not a reality at all but a mere abstraction. Considered as 
knowledge it is of course out of time, but all knowledge implies abstraction. 
Knowledge is not real apart from the thing known on the one hand or 
the knowing mind on the other. Abstract knowledge is out of time, just 
because we have made abstraction both of the time in which the knower 
is and of the time in which the events known occurred, and think of 
the knowledge apart in abstraction from its presence to any particular 
knower. * The system of relations/ the interconnected judgements which 
make up Science are no doubt out of time when, and in so far as, we make 
abstraction both of the knower and of the events related. But the abstract 
system of relations, when taken apart from the events related, is not 
the actual events, and the events related are in time. This confusion leads 
up to that view of the Universe which identifies the real world with a 
* system of relations,' supposed to be real without anything to relate, 
with a world timeless, changeless, static, existing for thought only and 
consisting of nothing but thought according to some, of thought without 
even a thinker. Such a mode of thinking seems to culminate in the 
doctrine that the Universe is nothing but a ' continuous judgement. 1 

(4) The system of categories which the self, in Kantian language, 
imposes upon the data of sense, and which are supposed to be derived from 
the Ego, has been confused not by Kant but by Green and others with the 
self by which these categories are, in the Kantian system, imposed upon 
the matter of our knowledge. This system of categories, abstracted from 
the matter which is known by means of them and from the concrete thought 
in which they are manifested, is no doubt out of relation to time: but 
then this system of thought-relations is still less capable of identification 
with Reality than the concrete judgements in which those categories 
are used. The real self certainly knows abstract truths which are ab- 
stractions and therefore out of time, and events which are in other times ; 
but it is itself born at a certain time and may (so far as actual experience 
goes) be out of existence at another, while every moment of its thought 
or volition is in some time or other. 

(5) If it be said that the 'self which is present in knowledge is not 
the individual but the universal self, I should reply (a) that God cannot, 
any more than the individual self, be identified with a system of abstract 
categories, and (b) that the self with which we are concerned in Morality 
must be the individual, and not the universal, self-consciousness. The 
fact that God is ' out of time/ if it be a fact, cannot be used as an argument 
against considering pleasure as any part of human good on the ground that 
it cannot satisfy a * timeless self/ The self which desires and wills and 
is satisfied in Morality is assuredly the individual self, and that is a self 
which has a beginning and which might (so far as any merely metaphysical 
consideration goes) be supposed to have an end. 


The question whether in any sense God is ' out of time * or * above time ' 
is a far more difficult problem. And, as it is not a matter of any directly 
ethical import, I do not intend to discuss it here at length. Here we have, 
it must be confessed, a real difficulty to face - the ' antinomy * involved in 
the impossibility either of thinking of a first event, a beginning of the world's 
history, or of supposing an endless succession of events. But this * antinomy * 
is not really solved by talking about the whole series being simultaneously 
or extra-temp orally present to a timeless consciousness : for, even if God 
contemplates the whole series at once, He must contemplate that series 
as having a beginning and an end or as endless : and we cannot understand 
how either is possible. The antinomy remains unsolved. The existence 
of the antinomy does constitute a good ground for saying that we do 
not fully understand the nature of time, and that God's relation to time 
must be different from our relation to it. But it does not justify us in 
talking about God being timeless ' or * out of time ' as though we really 
knew what such phrases meant, and could ourselves attain to this extra- 
temporal view of things ; or in talking about time-distinctions as merely 
* subjective,' as though the events of the world's history had their real 
being out of time but only appeared to us to be in time because of the 
imperfection of our knowledge as though all difference between past and 
future were merely apparent, as though the idea that human acts really 
effect any change in the Universe were a simple delusion, as though the 
reality of the world were something static and unchangeable, and the 

All these positions seem to me to involve at bottom (i) a confusion 
between knowledge and reality, and (2) the idea that the individual 
self is timeless. From no possible point of view can human experience 
appear to be out of time, except a point of view which does not look at 
things as they really are. If we admit that the individual self is not timeless, 
I can attach no meaning to a point of view from which the experiences 
of beings in time whose experience comes to them in time shall be seen 
to be really timeless. Any point of view from which God may in any sense 
be said to transcend time must at least be a point of view which admits 
of the possibility of his knowing the experience which is in time and of 
knowing it as in time that is to say, as it really is, and not as something 
which it is not. If God supposed that the pain which I suffered in the past 
really exists in the present or eternally or out of time, He would be thinking 
of things as they are not. 

It is impossible to discuss the question of the relation of God or the 
Absolute to time more fully, and I am far from thinking that it is one 
which can be disposed of in a few sentences. To discuss the question 
at all adequately would involve a whole Metaphysic : all Metaphysical 
questions are, indeed, apt to run up into this supreme difficulty. It is 
not necessary here to do more than to justify my refusal to admit 
the validity of any arguments or theories about Ethics or otherwise 
which assume that time is 'subjective.' There is, as I have said, no 
direct connexion between this question and any ethical problem, but 


indirectly the connexion is considerable. Theories of the merely subjective, 
apparent, delusive character of time and all that is in time underlie, or 
have a strong tendency to associate themselves with, the ethical scepticism 
which declines to recognize the objective validity of our ethical judge- 
ments, or to admit that the ethical point of view (admittedly implying 
the temporal point of view) contains any trustworthy revelation of the 
ultimate nature and meaning of the Universe. Such theories I have 
to some extent examined in other chapters, especially Book II, chap, iii, 
and Book III, chap. ii. 



IN the last chapter I tried to explain the sense and degree 
in which a sound system of Ethics presupposes certain meta- 
physical beliefs. It may be well briefly to recapitulate the 
results, (i ) We saw that certain beliefs about the self may be 
described as postulates of Ethics in the first degree, that is to 
say, in the sense that no real meaning whatever can be given to 
Morality without assuming the truth of those beliefs, though 
they may not be explicit in every individual consciousness. 
(3) The belief in God was found to be essential to the logical justi- 
fication of that idea of objective validity which is implicit in the 
moral consciousness, at least in the higher stages of its develop- 
ment. The idea of God may, no doubt, in particular persons of 
strong moral convictions not only not be explicit, but may be 
formally denied. The tendency, however, of its denial l is and 
must be in the long run (since all men are in some degree 
rational beings with a desire for rational self-consistency) to 
weaken or destroy belief in objective Morality and so the influence 
of ail higher Morality in the world. (3) The idea of a future life 
seemed an equally essential implication of Morality for those who 
find it impossible without it to reconcile the facts of life with 
such a conception of God and of the world as is essential for the 
rational interpretation of the moral consciousness. 

It is not pretended that these metaphysical implications of 
Morality have always been apparent either to systematic thinkers 
or to all those in whom moral ideas have been operative. To 

1 In strictness we should say the denial of God's existence or of some other 
form of the belief in a rational Universe, such as is involved (however 
imperfectly and inadequately) in Buddhism. Reasons have been given for 
regarding the theistic view as the only one which fully and adequately 
satisfies the implications of an objective Morality. 


many individuals these truths, presented in an abstract meta- 
physical form, have been no more apparent than any other 
metaphysical truths which are nevertheless no less really implicit 
in the ordinary thought of ordinary persons. Nevertheless the 
history of practical Ethics tends to support the belief that 
there is a real connexion between certain principles of action, 
and certain metaphysical verities. The way in which meta- 
physical truths have been held by and have impressed the great 
mass of men is in the form of what we call Religion. Religion 
represents an element in the life of all nations which have 
risen above a very low stage of savagery 1 , and the Morality 
of a people has always been very closely connected with its 
Religion, though the closeness of the connexion has varied at 
different stages of moral and religious development. This 
Religion has not always been Religion of the kind which we 
have attempted to represent as the logical presupposition -of 
a sound Morality, any more than the Morality connected with 
them has always been the Morality of civilized man. We are 
not concerned here with the historical aspect of the connexion 
between the lower forms of Morality and the lower forms of 
Religion. But the nature of the connexion between developed 
Morality and developed Religion is of such great importance, 
both theoretical and practical, that it will be well to devote 
a separate chapter to its consideration. 

I shall not in this chapter ask what is the ethical value of 
religious systems other than those which recognize the three 
fundamental principles which we have already seen reason for 
regarding as logical postulates of Ethics belief in God who wills 
the highest good and in the Immortality of the soul or at least 
of such souls as are worthy of Immortality. In the present 
chapter I propose to ask how far such beliefs are practically 
necessary or useful to Morality, and in what relation Religion 
and Morality ought to stand to one another in the ideal human 

1 Probably even this exception need not be made. Where travellers or 
Anthropologists have attempted to point out the existence of a people 
without Religion, the attempt is generally based either upon insufficient 
information or upon a too narrow conception of what Religion is. 


The first of these questions is of course to some extent distinct 
from the question on which we have been engaged, Religious 
belief might possess an important and beneficial moral influence 
without being in any sense speculatively necessary to a complete 
and self-consistent ethical creed : or again theistic belief might 
be speculatively necessary, although the absence of it might have 
no important practical influence upon those who are content to 
do without speculative justification for their practical beliefs. 
But though distinct, the two questions are not unconnected. 
For no absolute line can be drawn between speculative or 
scientific Metaphysics and popular Theology. Popular religious 
beliefs, positive or negative, represent an implicit Metaphysic, 
though often no doubt, for their adherents, resting partly upon 
grounds which could not in the ordinary sense of the word be 
described as metaphysical. Metaphysic represents the reflective 
and articulate form of beliefs which may quite well be held in 
a more or less chaotic, a more or less unreflective, way by un- 
metaphysical and even uneducated persons. All Religion is, 
always has been, and always must be essentially metaphysical. 
The crudest savage ' Animism ' is a metaphysical theory as 
much as the most esoteric Brahminism or the most cultured 
modern Theology. The modern Theologians of the Ritschlian 
type, who declaim against Metaphysics and propose to reduce 
Theology to a belief in the Fatherhood of God, are Metaphysicians 
as much as the most elaborately technical Schoolman or the 
most speculative Hegelian. The belief in the Fatherhood of God 
is none the less a metaphysical belief, because it may be shared 
both by unlearned men who are entirely without metaphysical 
training and by learned men who are not good Metaphysicians. 
Metaphysic after all has no data but the facts of outer and inner 
experience, and no instrument but human Reason ; and all men 
have some experience, and use their Reason to a greater or less 
extent in interpreting that experience. The beliefs of those who 
think for themselves gradually spread, and influence those who 
think little or not at all. This is particularly the case with the 
Metaphysic which deals with the facts of the moral conscious- 
ness, and with matters in which the moral consciousness has an 
especial interest. And the practical influence of religious belief 

Chap, ii, ii] PRIMITIVE RELIGION 253 

or its absence upon Morality is due, as I believe, in a large 
measure to an instinctive consciousness of its necessity as the 
presupposition of that objective validity in ethical judgements 
on which I have already dwelt. The 'plain .jnxaoA fiudguit, 
difficult or impossible to believe in Morality as anything more 
than the actual opinion of his neighbours about his conduct, 
unless he can believe that it is the law of the Universe; and 
this belief is for him, at least, and I have tried to show that in 
the main he is right, possible only in the form of a belief that 
Morality is the will of God : and, if God is just, He must (so he 
will argue) reward the good and punish the bad. So the plain 
man argues ; and any weakening of this conviction is apt to 
react upon the intensity, if not upon the detailed content of his 
ethical creed. Reflection may bring him hereafter to a more 
refined view of what is crudely represented as c reward ' and 
' punishment ' ; but the heart of his belief is right, and may be 
expressed more exactly in the form that the Universe is directed 
towards the working out of an ideal end for individual souls. 


But here, perhaps, exception may be taken to my seeming to 
identify Religion with Monotheism, and even with a Monotheism 
which carries with it the belief in personal Immortality. I have 
already disclaimed the attempt to give any historical account of 
the relation between Religion and Morality, which is in many 
respects a very different relation at different stages of human 
culture. Historically, of course, the origin of Religion may be 
said to be almost independent of Morality, except in so far as all 
primitive Religion was closely connected with that family and 
tribal sentiment which was the earliest form of Morality. In 
primitive times Religion and Morality represented two streams 
of human thought and feeling which were indeed to a large 
extent parallel and independent, but which were never without 
frequent points of contact and interaction. Elements in primitive 
Religion were quite unconnected with Morality ; elements in it 
were contrary to Morality, or at least contrary to what would 
have been regarded as moral but for the influence of those 
religious ideas. Still more emphatically elements or aspects of 


Morality have at certain periods of History had nothing or very 
little to do with Religion. This has been the case especially at 
certain times and places where the ethical development has 
temporarily gone beyond the religious development. 

We are apt to underestimate the closeness of the habitual 
relations between Morality and Religion through our familiarity 
with just those periods of ancient civilization in which for a very 
small class the ethical development was most conspicuously in 
advance of the religious l . But, even for the average pagan outside 
the small cultivated class, religious duties (in so far as they were 
recognized as duties) were also moral duties, although the act 
prescribed might be an act which at other times and places 
might be regarded as immoral, and necessarily affected (for good 
or for evil) his general ideas about Morality. Some moral duties 
at least were at all times specially connected with, and encouraged 
by, Religion, even when the highest ideals of the community had 
little connexion with and exercised little influence over its 
religious ideas except by undermining them. And on the whole 
the tendency of progress both moral and religious has been to 
bring Religion and Morality ever more and more closely together, 
until in the * ethical religions ' there is professedly a complete 
coincidence between the requirements of Religion and those of 
Morality; though only in the more spiritual forms of these 
completely perhaps only in the purest forms of Christianity is 
this coincidence fully, systematically, and consciously realized. 
These higher Religions may all be fairly described as monotheistic 
with one exception ; and they all teach a future life of the 
soul. Buddhism in its pure and original form was certainly not 
theistic ; though it probably tends to become so in the popular 
consciousness 2 . But Buddhism is certainly not an instance of 

1 How small this section was we are reminded by Mark Pattison : * We 
are apt to speak as if in the Roman world of the first century A.D., pagan 
worships had died, or were dying out. This is an illusion generated by 
literature' (Sermons, p. 151). Another * delusion generated by Literature* 
has restricted our conception of Religion in the ancient world too much to 
the official State worship ; it takes too little account of the more popular 
and the more ethically influential cults such as Orphism and Mithraism. 

9 So difficult is the experiment of a non-theistic Religion that Buddhism 
has had practically to deify its atheistic Founder. An exception ought 


a Religion which is independent of metaphysical belief, nor yet 
of a Religion without the idea in a future life, and its belief 
about that life is no doubt one great source of the beneficent 
moral influence which it has exercised. It is true that in its 
orthodox form Buddhism regards the extinction of consciousness 
as the ultimate goal of human aspiration ; but even this implies 
the conception of a future good which depends upon present 
conduct, though that good is conceived of as a negative good or 
escape from evil. And for the great mass of Buddhists many 
lives intervene between the present and the soul's final goal: 
while the best authorities seem to doubt whether even Nirvana 
has ever really been regarded, except by a few thinkers in their 
most speculative moments, as an actual extinction of conscious- 
ness. The ethical influence of this non-theistic Religion is 
undoubted, but it may quite well be contended that its negative 
Theology is largely responsible for its ethical defects. The 
comparative history of the two Religions Christianity and 
Buddhism would seem to confirm the suspicion that the ethical 
results of a Religion which makes death its highest ideal must 
be inferior on the whole to those of a Religion which finds the 
end of man in a more abundant and satisfying life. 

Comparison of particular Religions is, however, quite beside 
my present purpose. I am concerned here only with estimating 
the ethical value and importance of Religion in what I regard as 
its highest form, the only form (as I believe) in which Religion 
is fully in harmony with a sound reflective Metaphysic, and at 
all events the only form in which its influence is practically felt 
in civilized Western societies. I have added these remarks on 
account of the wild language in which an eminent thinker has 
indulged about the unhistorical mistake of those who assume 
that there can be no Religion without a personal God or personal 
Immortality. I have not overlooked the possibility of a Religion 
without either a God or a future life : but it remains a question 
what would be the ethical results of such a Religion. There 

perhaps also to be made of the old Persian Religion, inasmuch as its 
admission of an independent principle or power of evil is inconsistent with 
Monotheism : but even there the good Spirit is thought of as more powerful 
than the evil. 


may undoubtedly be such a thing as Religion which is positively 
unfavourable to the moral life. I am not sure that the Religion 
which Mr. Bradley has sketched for us is not of that character, 
The worship of an Absolute which is conceived of as non-moral 
could hardly be of much positive ethical value. The worship of 
an Absolute who has a moral character and that the moral char- 
acter which Mr. Bradley (if he is to be taken seriously l ) in his 
more anti-orthodox moods attributes to the object of his esoteric 
cult might well lead to ethical results not unlike those associated 
with the worship of the less respectable deities in the pagan 
Pantheon. Fortunately the experiment of such a Religion has 
never been tried on any large scale at an advanced stage of 


What then are the ethical advantages of Theism ? To deal 
with the subject adequately would really involve an examination 
of Religion itself, not only in the form of an abstract Philosophy 
but in its historical manifestations, and particularly in the form 
which even those who do not regard it as in any sense final will 
for the most part admit to be the highest which has hitherto 
exercised any widespread influence on mankind. The following 
remarks must be regarded as the merest indication of the main 
heads under which the very manifold and far-reaching influences 
of Religion upon Morality may be grouped the main grounds 
on which I reject the tendency to regard an ethical creed as 
a satisfactory substitute for a theological creed based upon 

First, however, let me repeat what I have already more than 
once insisted on, I trust with some emphasis that the moral con- 
sciousness itself contains no explicit or immediate reference 
to any theological belief whatever. A man's consciousness of 

1 Recent utterances of his, e. g. in an article on ' Truth and Practice ' in 
Mind, N. S., Vol. XIII, No. 51 (1904), seem to suggest that the mood in question 
is passing away. At all events I find it quite impossible to reconcile the 
reverent and theistic spirit of those remarks with such a suggestion as that 
which he makes in Appearance and Beality, Ed. ii. p. 194, that human error 
is justified in the world-plan because of the contribution which it makes 
to the amusement of the Absolute. 


value, and in particular of the supreme value residing in the 
good will, does not necessarily include, as a matter of simple 
psychological fact, any recognition of duty as the will of God, 
or any expectation of happiness or misery in another life as the 
consequence of duty performed or neglected. Nor can the con- 
sciousness of duty be regarded as in any sense a logical deduction 
or inference from such beliefs, ^hese beliefs logic^Ji^jgresup- 
]3OfiJJhe moral consciousness. It is for the rational interpreta- 
tion of the moral consciousness that metaphysical or theological 
beliefs are required; just as they are required for the rational 
interpretation of Science, though eminent men of Science may 
be innocent of all conscious metaphysical theory or indulge 
in metaphysical speculations really fatal to their own Sciences. 
Where no such interpretation presents itself as reasonable or 
where it is deliberately rejected, the good man in proportion 
to his goodness will still no doubt aim at that which seems 
to him the highest ; and no difficulty which he may experience 
in metaphysically interpreting his conduct will lead to the 
cessation of his efforts if only he is good enough and strong 
enough. In proportion to his goodness and his strength he will 
cling to his ethical ideal. The absence or rejection of meta- 
physical justification seems, however, to have a tendency varying 
in strength according to circumstances and temperament, a ten- 
dency which shows itself in the spiritual life of communities 
even where it does not immediately tell upon the spiritual life of 
individuals, to^3Yfi&ken the hold of the belief in Morality itself 
upoajife and conduct. It does not necessarily involve a direct, 
conscious, immediate alteration of ethical creed. In the majority 
of cases a man who has given up every form of theological 
belief will continue to say ' I believe in Morality ' ; and if you 
ask him what Morality means he will possibly give much the 
same account of it as he did before his rejection of the theo- 
logical belief. He does not, except perhaps as regards certain 
particular points of Morality which for him may have been 
specially connected with some organ of religious Authority, 
reject anything that he believed before : he does not consciously 
and deliberately make up his mind to aim no more at what 
he aimed at formerly, or to drown scruples which he once 



respected. But the intellectual hold of Morality upon his mind is 
weakened when he can give no account of it except that it 
is a way of thinking that Evolution has somehow produced 
in creatures of his species. It ceases to occupy the place that 
it did in his habitual thoughts about the Universe and his own 
place in it. For the only form in which the majority of men can 
grasp tenaciously the idea of an objective Moral Law is by regacd- JW the will of a spiritual Being to whom they feel them- 
selves, responsible l . Even among highly-educated persons it is 
doubtful whether many find it possible to realize the belief in an 
abstract Morality, and to make the aspiration after it the domi- 
nant aim of their lives with as much intensity as the best of 
those who have believed in a living God. For after all ration- 
ality exercises some influence over human conduct ; and a belief 
which the holder of it is forced to regard as irrational or non- 
rational will exercise in the long run, in proportion as its non- 
rational character is realized, less influence on a man's conduct 
than one which justifies itself to his Reason as well as to his emo- 
tions. Nor can it well be denied that most of those who reject the 
idea of God do advisedly and deliberately reject also as a matter 
of speculative belief the idea of an absolute or intrinsic moral 
obligation, though some of them may more or less successfully 
endeavour to prevent that rejection from having any practical 
effect upon their conduct. But in the long run speculation does 
affect conduct. To state the practical connexion between Re- 

1 At least this may be said of Western men. If it does not hold of 
Buddhists, it must be remembered that the Buddhist very distinctly regards 
the Universe as morally controlled, though by an impersonal law. I should 
fully admit that such a creed as that of Dr. McTaggart the belief in 
Immortality without a belief in God does supply a metaphysical justifica- 
tion for Morality. Whether it does this so well as Theism, whether the 
creed is intrinsically as reasonable as Theism, and whether its influence over 
life and conduct is likely to be as powerful, these are questions which 
I cannot here explicitly discuss. It seems hardly necessary for a Theist who 
thinks a belief in Immortality with Theism more reasonable than a belief in 
Immortality without it to attempt to decide exactly how much of the ethical 
influence arising from belief in God and Immortality could be secured by 
belief in Immortality and a morally governed Universe without God. The 
reader will see that some of the considerations urged in this chapter could be 
equally urged from Dr. McTaggart's point of view, while others could not. 

Chap, ii, iii] THE LOVE OF GOD 259 

ligion and Morality as its lowest, the belief in a personal God 
represents the form of belief about the Universe in which the 
intellectual hold of Morality upon the human mind tends to 
attain its maximum intensity. And the firmer or weaker in- 
tellectual grasp of a belief reacts upon its emotional influence. 

Theism of the Christian type is the creed which secures the 
maximum emotional hold of human Morality upon the mind. 
Action motived by no other desire than the desire to fulfil the 
Moral Law for its own sake, accompanied by no emotion but 
what is produced by the direct consciousness of duty, is un- 
doubtedly not impossible. But such a desire is not commonly 
the sole or (unless reinforced by other feelings or emotions) 
the habitually dominant motive of action even in the best men. 
Morality seldom excites the strongest emotion till it is embodied 
in a self-conscious Being. Personal influence is the strongest of 
all moral motive powers. And yet there is clearly no kind 
of personal affection or social emotion except the fear or love 
of God which can be trusted to range itself invariably on 
thejjicle of, the Moral Law. It is not easy to exaggerate the 
increase of emotional intensity which the Moral Law acquires 
when the reverence for it fuses inextricably with a feeling of 
reverence for a Person who is conceived of as essentially and per- 
fectly good. Aud this reverence is almost independent of the 
hope of reward or fear of punishment, except in so far as 
a belief in the divine Justice is necessary to the individual's 
conception of God as a Person worthy of reverence. This is 
a consideration often forgotten when advocates of a purely 
' ethical Religion ' expatiate on the additional purity which 
a non-theistic creed gives to moral aspiration. It is forgotten 
that the love of God means simply love for a Person who is the 
highest good and the source of all other goodness. 

There is, indeed, one sort of emotion and only one which can 
be compared in its intensity and its moral efficacy with religious 
emotion and that is Patriotism and other forms of social feel- 
ing 1 . John Stewart Mill has declared that, though he enter- 

1 Historically Patriotism, when it has practically acted as a moral motive 
power of great intensity, has usually been associated with some form of 
religious belief in the moral sense of the word. That is so even with the 


tains 'the strongest objections to the system of politics and 
morals set forth 1 in Comte's Systems de Politique Positive, 
that treatise ' has superabundantly shown the possibility of 
giving to the service of humanity, even without the aid of belief 
in a Providence, both the physical power and the social efficacy 
of a religion V I do not doubt that the love of country or of 
Humanity is capable of producing in particular natures even 
in whole nations moral results comparable in strength with those 
which spring from the fear or the love of God. But it must not be 
forgotten that this social enthusiasm is extremely difficult to 
cultivate, and that when cultivated it is not always a security 
for a sound Morality. For the effect of good conduct on social 
Well-being is often very remote and indirect: affection for 
individuals or for small groups of men even for the whole 
present generation may inspire conduct which is really anti- 
social. The strongest temptation to most men lies in the dis- 
position to conform to the moral standard, and to win the 
applause, of their immediate environment. Moreover, even the 
philanthropy which is really inspired by a love of Humanity at 
large may be divorced from the love of moral goodness. What 
we desire for others may be mere pleasure or contentment, not 
the highest sort of life. Against these dangers there is no more 
valuable counteractive than the faith which identifies Morality 
with the love of a God who wills exclusively the true and 
highest good of all his creatures. The love of God is at once 
a stimulant, a complement, and a corrective to the love of man. 
Th_true love of Humanity is the love of Humanity at its 
highset ' the love not of all men nor yet of every man, but 
of the man in every man V And love of the ideal man becomes 

modern Japanese. Vague as the creed of the average Japanese appears to 
be, it does eminently tend to produce the conviction that Morality is the law 
of the Universe, and not simply the public opinion of a particular com- 
munity. Both Buddhism and Shintoism, in the form in which they are 
popularly accepted, conduce to that result by producing belief in the future of 
the soul after death, and in a communion with still living ancestors. The 
pessimistic, ascetic, and anti-social side o( Buddhism appears to have exercised 
little influence on the Japanese mind. 

1 Utilitarianism, p. 49. 

8 Seeley, Ecce Homo, ed. xiii, chap, xiii, p. 145, 


a stronger force the more the ideal end for man is identified 
with the end of the Universe. In the Christian or the Theist 
the love of the ideal man is the love of man as God wills him 
to be. 

The belief in ajutura-life I regard as of the highest value 
both as a postulate or a corollary of belief in God, and for its 
own sake. The idea of such a life is simply caricatured when it 
is spoken of as a mere belief in the distribution of posthumous 
' rgjvards and punishments/ Even in this aspect its educational 
influence is not to be despised. Theists need not be ashamed to 
acknowledge that they do regard it as a gain to Morality that 
that ' education by pleasure and pain ' which thinkers like Plato 
and Aristotle regarded as the function of the State should be 
continued in another life ; and that men should act habitually 
with the thought before them of a future in which the principle 
of ' reaping what they have sown ' to some very imperfect 
extent the law even of life here shall be far more fully and 
adequately realized. It is true that conduct motived wholly 
by fear of punishment or hope of reward has little or no moral 
value *, so long at least as the reward and punishment are con- 
ceived of in a purely hedonistic sense ; and that the ideal is not 
reached till this motive is supplanted by or merged in other and 
higher motives. But we do not despise such influences in 
ordinary moral education. What parent or schoolmaster would 
say to a young child, ' My good child, enlightened Philosophers 
are agreed that conduct motived by fear of punishment or hope 
of reward is worthless ; therefore henceforth I shall leave you 
to be guided by your own innate sense of right and wrong. 
I will not corrupt the purity of your will by threats or promises. 
Your virtues shall be their own reward ; your misdeeds shall 
never interfere with your pleasures or cause the withdrawal 
of my favour ' ? What child would flourish morally under such 
treatment as this ? And yet it would be a very cynical view of 
human nature to suppose that the average schoolboy is actuated 

1 And yet after all Prudence does represent a higher motive than mere 
animal impulse. 


by no motive higher than selfish hope or fear. He has higher 
motives, but he requires to be aided in his efforts at self-conquest 
by lower ones. And_after all-most, of us are a great deal more 
like^^hi]dren than it is fashionable among Philosophers to be- 
lieve at least in our moments of weakness and strong tempta- 
tion. How many people could honestly assert that the promptings 
of their internal Conscience require or derive no support arid 
assistance from the ' external Conscience ' their fear of social 
disapproval or the disapproval of those whom they most respect ? 
How many of us will pretend that it would be morally good for 
them to have all such restraints suddenly withdrawn ? And 
yet, as we have seen, the ' external Conscience ' does not always 
echo the promptings of the inner Conscience. It is just at such 
times that the external conscience which is supplied by a belief in 
a God who rewards and punishes becomes most valuable. Plenty 
of non-religious Moralists will admit that it is wrong to fight 
a duel : it may be doubted whether a duel has ever been declined 
upon conscientious grounds, where the social sanction insists on 
its being fought, except by religious men. 

We do not hesitate to appeal even to the coarser physical 
pains and pleasures in moral education just so far as this may be 
required. If a man does not see that drunkenness is disgusting, 
we do not think it degrading to point out to him its physical 
ill-effects still less its ultimate tendency to weaken his will and 
paralyse every energy that he possesses. It is difficult to see 
how moral education can be conducted in any other way than by 
associating pleasure and pain with the right objects, and gradually 
appealing to more and more remote and refined pleasures and 
pains pleasures and pains more and more intrinsically connected 
with the good or bad conduct itself ; while at the same time, as 
moralization advances,we more and more allow the highest motives 
the repeat for duty and regard for others to take their place 
or to transform all lower motives. Moral ' Autonomy ' is no doubt 
the ideaU but it is only at a very advanced stage of moral and 
intellectual growth that pure Autonomy is attainable. At the 
lower levels of moral education, there is no objection to insisting 
on the mere reward and punishment aspect of the future life, so 
long as these are never represented as constituting the true 


ground for moral conduct. But even at this stage the value 
of this idea of a future 'judgement' consists even more in its 
tendency simply to emphasize the reality of moral obligation, 
the idea of an objective Moral Law and of personal responsi- 
bility, than in the actual influence which the terror of personal 
ill-consequences exerts over the mind *. AncLj^jajoral education 
advances, it will first sink into the background or he evoked 
only as an aid to resist the force of violent temptations, and then 
with the highest souls be altogether superseded by a love of God 
andTman of that perfected kind which is said to f cast out fear.' 
In its highest form a Morality based on the idea of God is only 
a personal, and therefore a far more practically influential, form 
of ' ethical Autonomy.' 

In the higher religious life the anticipation of future rewards 
and punishments passes into the expectation of a better life 
in which greater perfection of character and greater oppor- 
tunities of exercising our highest capacities than are attainable 
in the present stage of existence shall be combined with all the 
other elements that constitute our highest conception of the 
good. Belief in another life enhances the value of the life that 
now is and the importance of the moral struggle of which it 
is the scene. The conviction that a man's present conduct will 
influence his future is the very beginning of all Morality : the 
larger that future, the more influence does that principle exercise 
upon conduct. Moreover, it is not only in regard to ourselves 
but in regard to others that the vision of eternal consequences 
emphasizes the importance of every act of moral choice. The 
promotion of human pleasure and the prevention of human 
misery would not be ignoble things to aim at, even though the 
days of man were but threescore years and ten ; nor is the value 
of the higher spiritual life wholly dependent upon its duration. 

1 I suspect that, when the fear of Hell plays a prominent part in the 
more ardent and emotional kind of religious conversion, it does so mainly 
by breaking down the apathy and the slavery to immediate sensation which 
has hitherto prevented moral reflection. It awakens reflection : after that, 
it is rather the sense of the justice of the punishment depicted by authority 
or imagination than the actual fear of it, which effects the moral re- 
generation, though the one idea may often be psychologically inseparable 
from the other. 


But it does seem to me the mere obstinacy of philosophical dog- 
matism to minimize tha infhifa) yyfa mh is likely to flow from 
the thought of endless consequences not merely for Society at 
large but for our own individual souls and the soul of each 
individual whose character is affected by our acts. Is not that 
reflection 'eminently calculated to strengthen our sense of the 
importance of the moral life ? And is not th thought that after 
all in a few years' time it will not matter a straw to myself or to 
any one else now living whether I have struggled against tempta- 
tion .or yielded to it, a thought eminently calculated to depress 
the moral energies, and to reinforce every passion or inclination 
which may suggest that it is our wisdom to live only for the 
passing hour ? ' Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die/ was 
not indeed a necessary or logical deduction from the denial 
of Immortality, but it is undoubtedly the inference which the 
natural man is very apt to draw from it. 

It is riot, be it remembered, the absolute importance of the 
moral struggle and the spiritual life for ourselves and others so 
much as its relative importance when compared with all lower 
enjoyments and interests which may stand in its way that is so 
enormously enhanced by the conviction that character lasts 
beyond the grave. In persons not of a highly imaginative 
or emotional temperament it is perhaps more in this way than 
in any personal sense of craving either for future happiness 
or future perfection that the need for a belief in Immortality is 
most powerfully felt. They quite recognize that their efforts toj 
be useful ought not to be diminished by any loss of faith in Immor- 
tality, and yet the feeling of the poverty and unsatisfactoriness 
of human life, as it is for the great mass of men, will tend to 
make their philanthropy unhopeful and uncheerful ; and still 
more probably it will tend to lower their ideal of the good which 
they desire for their fellows. To the non-believer in Immortality 
the lower goods will seem a more attainable and a more solid 
aim than that effort to improve character which often produces 
so little immediate fruit. And after all it is not wholly a ques- 
tion of ' seeming. 1 For the superiority of the higher goods 
to the lower does in part depend upon their duration. The 
superior duration of the higher goods is one of the most familiar 


topics of the least theological Moralists. In particular when the 
possibilities of life are narrowing in, a man's estimate of the 
superior value of higher goods is likely to be vitally affected by 
his Eschatology. The belief in Immortality ought not to revolu- 
tionize our estimate of moral values, but it may rationally enough 
be held in some cases to alter to an appreciable degree our com- 
parative estimate of values. When the hope of Immortality 
is treated as irrational, it is hard to believe that men will think 
it worth while to spend time and labour upon the improvement 
of character in themselves or others at an age when their work 
in life ia done, and when their powers of social influence on other 
lives may be treated as a negligible quantity. I have already 
dwelt upon the influence which a thoroughly realized belief 
in human mortality would be likely to exert, and perhaps ought 
to exert, upon the general estimate of Suicide and some depart- 
ments of Ethics connected therewith 1 . There is no need to 
repeat them here. 

There is yet another way in which Morality seems to crave, if 
it does not logically demand, the belief in Immortality, or rather 
one other way of re-stating the connexion which we have already 
been studying. On the supposition of universal mortality the 
contrast between the capacities of human nature and its actual 
destiny, between the immensity of the man's outlook and the 
limitations of his actual horizon, between the splendour of his 
ideals and the insignificance of his attainment, becomes such as 
to constitute, in a mind which fairly faces it, a shock to our 
rational nature sufficient to destroy belief in the rationality of 
things, and to imperil confidence in the authority of Moral 
Reason as a guide to human life. To those who have once 
accepted the rationality of things, and most emphatically to 
those who have once accepted the faith in a personal God, the 
improbability that a being of such capacity should have been 
created to be simply the creature of a day, that 'cometh up, 
and is cut down, like a flower, and never continueth in one stay,' 
has almost invariably amounted to an absolute impossibility. 
It is the favourite argument alike of reasoned Philosophy and 
of the intensest moral intuition. It is the argument implicit in 

1 See above, p. 209. 


the intuition of Jesus Christ, that beings once admitted to 
spiritual communion with the Eternal Father, like the traditional 
fathers of the Jewish race, could not be doomed to extinction 
after so brief and so imperfect a vision of Him. * God is not the 
God of the dead but of the living.' Plato and Cicerp are full of 
the same thought. It is the argument drily and somewhat 
abstractedly expressed by Kant when he made it a postulate of 
the Moral Law that its commands should be capable of fulfilment, 
and argued that, as in this life only distant approaches to the true 
ideal are possible to the best, there must be a hereafter in which a 
progressively closer approximation to it should be possible. It is 
at bottom the basis of that faith in Immortality which, in greater 
or less intensity, is to be found in nearly all modern thinkers in 
whom ethical convictions have been profound and paramount l . 
And, be it observed, it is not among those whose ideas of 
Morality are such as to demand a * trinkgeld ' for Virtue, but 
precisely among those whose sense of the intrinsic worth of 
goodness is strongest, and whose appreciation of the higher side 
of the present life is keenest, that we find the most passionate 
conviction that this cannot be all. If this conviction, this 
necessary inference from the existence of the Moral Law, should 
be shown to be false, it would tend to throw doubt upon the 
validity of all their higher thought, upon the worth of all higher 
ideals, even upon the validity of the moral judgement itself. It 
can hardly be doubted that psychologically it would have this 
effect. And, if there be any validity in the argument of the 
last chapter, that effect would only be the psychological expression 
of legitimate metaphysical considerations. It is not only the 
' sense of obligation ' that would disappear, but also the reality 
of it, that is to say the objectivity which at bottom is the 
ultimate meaning of moral obligation 2 . 

1 The natural tendency of such minds, when the drift of their thought 
takes them away from the belief in God and Immortality, is towards 
Pessimism. I should certainly include Von Hartmann among the thinkers in 
whom ethical considerations have been profound and paramount. 

2 Or, at least, the basis of it. In popular thought the idea of ' moral 
obligation ' usually includes not merely the belief in an objective mind or law 
but the belief that the Universe is ultimately governed in accordance with 
that law. 

Chap. ii,iv] LOVE OF GOD AND OF MAN 267 

Belief in a future life is, I hold, an essential element of 
Religion in any form which is likely to satisfy a modern 
Western intelligence whose Ethics are not those of Asceticism, 
and whose conception of the Universe is not pessimistic. But at 
the same time I should strongly insist that this belief derives its 
moral value largely from its close connexion with the highest 
form of the religious emotion the love of God. Fjcui-God to be 
loyecLHe .must be thought of as worthy of love, and it is difficult 
tq believe that He is worthy of love if He wills such a world as 
ours except as a means to some better one, for those at least of 
his creatures who are worthy of it. But I would once more 
emphasize the fact that the religious motive at its highest is the 
love of God for his own sake, and not merely for any reward 
that is to be expected from Him, however sublimated be our 
conception of that reward. 1^ the love of God the two strongest 
emotional forces which make for Morality in this world find 
their fullest and most harmonious satisfaction reverence for 
the moral ideal and love of Humanity. When God is conceived 
of as the realization of our highest moral ideals, love of God and 
love of duty become one and the same thing, with all the 
additional strength which love of a person can claim over 
the love of an abstract law. Love of a person includes the 
desire to promote that person's end : and the end of God, 
as we have thought of Him, is the highest welfare of his 
creatures l . Devotion to the moral ideal and to the true good of 
Humanity is, indeed, at bottom identical with the love of God. 
But it is hardly possible to exaggerate the reinforcement which 
that devotion receives, both on the rational and the emotional 
side, when it is identified with the love of a person in whom our 
highest ideal is realized, and on whose side we are called upon 
to contend in a real, and not a merely illusory, battle for the 
realization of that same ideal in others. That the love of God 
may be implicit in all reverence for the moral ideal and all true 
love of Humanity, even when the thought of God is not 
consciously present to the agent's mind, I should be the first to 

1 So far as known to us and so far as it can be promoted by human action. 
I do not of course deny that this may be in reality but a small part of the 
ultimate world-end. 


assert l ; but implicit beliefs are generally not so strong as 
explicit beliefs. Implicit beliefs tend to wither away when 
they are never made explicit; still more so, when in their 
explicit form they are scouted and ridiculed. Belief in the 
moral ideal attains its maximum momentum when it is identi- 
fied with the love of a Person. 

It would involve an artificial and unreal separation between the 
spheres of natural and of what is popularly known as ' revealed ' 
Religion were I to abstain from pointing out how Christianity 
satisfies the demand for a personal object of the highest reverence 
by concentrating it upon an historical human being who is 
regarded at once as the supreme and typical revelation of the 
divine Will and character and as the truest type of the human 
race. Love of God and love of man meet in the love of Christ. 
The love of Humanity cannot degenerate into an unethical 
humanitarian sentiment when Humanity is represented by its 
worthiest type. Love of God cannot degenerate into an other- 
worldly or anti-social pietism when God is thought of as 
represented by Humanity at its highest ; while, according to the 
Christian view of Ethics, social enthusiasm receives its highest 
satisfaction in the pursuit of that ideal of a regenerated human 
society which Jesus bequeathed to the world, and which has 
taken outward and visible form in the organized communities of 
his followers. 

There are some to whom the view which has been taken of 
the relation between Religion and Morality will seem to concede 
too little to Religion and too much to Morality. They will con- 
tend that the sphere of Morality and the sphere of Religion are 

1 Von Hartmann points out that just as the love of particular animals 
(e. g. in children) is often an undeveloped love of man, so the love of man is 
an undeveloped love of God. ' . . . er in seinem Bruder das Ebenbild oder die 
Inkarnation Gottes sieht. Die Gottesliebe 1st die Wahrheit der Nachstenliebe, 
wie die Nachstenliebe die Wirklichkeit der Gottesliebe 1st * (Ethische Studien, 
p. 207). The writer is here only developing principle implied in Christ's 
own ' Forasmuch as ye did it unto the least of these my brethren, ye did it 
unto me,' whether we regard these words as the ipsissima verba of Christ, 
or as representing the working of his spirit in the mind of the early 


wholly distinct, the sphere of Religion being the higher of the 
two. The sphere of , Morality is that of human action and of 
human action alone. Morality cannot reasonably be attributed 
to, God. It implies the coexistence of evil and good. It implies 
that some things happen which ought not to happen; whereas 
frojpk the religious point of view nothing can happen but that 
whiojti God will*, and what God wills is what ought to happen. 
The good and the bad alike contribute, it will be urged, to the 
fulfilment of the divine Will. It is merely owing to the limita- 
tions of human nature that we present some things to ourselves 
as bad aud others as good. Not only must we suppose, therefore, 
on speculative grounds that the divine Will is ' super-moral/ and 
that acts and principles of action which to us seem immoral 
are in God perfectly good, but it is possible to some extent even 
for the human mind, in a general way, if not in detail, to see that 
they are good ; and by an effort of not irrational faith to trust 
that they are so even where it cannot point out how and why they 
are so. The religious consciousness can rise above the abstract 
and one-sided point of view to which the mere moral conscious- 
ness is confined ; it can acquiesce, not only with pious resignation 
but with joy and exultation, in the perfect order which faith 
reveals; and pronounce that in this world, wherein there are 
many things which it is wrong to do and much evil which it is 
a duty to struggle against, there happens nevertheless ultimately 
nothing which ought not to happen ! . 

Now in this contention it is extremely important to distin- 
guish between two possible senses in which such language may 
be used. It is one thing to maintain that our Morality is de- 
fective, and inadequately represents the true and final aim of 
the Universe: it is another thing to maintain that ..moral dis- 
tinctions of any and every kind are transcended in the mind of 
God> and in the soul of the religious man who has managed to 
think himself or feel himself out of the moral into the super-moral 

1 Indeterminists will of course except what is due to the ' free-will 'on 
any view a very small part of the total evil in the world. This point 
of view is not usually adopted by Indetermmists, but it is occasionally 
approximated to by a few Indeterminist Theologians who have picked up 
a philosophy which does not suit them. 


sphere. That our conception of the ethical ideal is a more or less 
imperfect one will be admitted in some degree by thinkers of every 
school. The def ectiveness of our moral notions might be asserted 
in a very much stronger way than I see any reason for doing 
without implying that for God there is no Morality l or that our 
moraljudgements, not because they are bad and erroneous moral 
judgements but just because they are, from the ethical point of 
view, sound and reasonable, are nevertheless from the goint, ,of 
view of the Absolute false or meaningless. To maintain this 
last position implies the denial of all objectivity to the moral judge- 
ment, and reduces all Morality not merely to ' an appearance ' 
but to a false and delusive appearance. It is of the essence of 
the moral consciousness, as it actually exists, to claim universal 
validity; if it possesses no such validity, it is not merely par- 
ticular moral judgements that are false and delusive but the 
whole idea that there is such a thing as an end which absolutely 
ought to be promoted, and that we have a power (more or less 
adequate) of determining what that something is. 

Now it seems to me that many of those who indulge in the 
now fashionable talk about a ' super-moral sphere ' are not clear 
in their own minds as to the sense in which they maintain it. 
Mr. Bradley, for instance, has used much language which could 
only be justified if he meant to uphold the second and more 
destructive of the two positions above indicated. But, when he 
pronounces that, though the Absolute is not moral, he or rather 
' it ' is nevertheless * in a sense * good 2 , or that, though both good- 
ness and badness ' are good alike, . . . they are not good equally V 
he is as much implying the validity of that category of good 
from which Morality derives all its meaning as he would be if he 
made the less startling assertion that human Morality is an 
imperfect revelation of the divine. When he pronounces that 
the Universe as a whole is perfectly good, I may dissent from 

1 Of course if by Morality is meant the choice of the good in spite of 
inclination to the contrary, there is no harm in saying with Kant that God's 
Will is a ' holy ' and not a moral Will. Kant of course was as far as possible 
from the point of view which I am attacking. He made a * holy will ' the 
ideal goal even of human character-development, and he never hesitates 
to speak of God as a moral Being. 

2 Appearance and Reality, p. 412. * Jb., p. 440. 

Chap, ii, v] MR. BRADLEY'S VIEW 271 

his Optimism ; but he is as much assuming the absolute validity 
of his own moral judgements, and consequently of that category 
of good which those judgements involve, as I do when I assert 
that the whole is not perfectly good, though God's Will is for the 
best possible. When he supposes that the Absolute may enjoy 
something much better than Morality in willing not merely 
particular acts (which in God may be means to a greater good) 
but ends at which it would be cruel and malicious for a man to 
aim, I may dispute his reasons for making such an assumption ; 
but, if the promotion of divine laughter at human ignorance be 
really better than love, it would follow not that God was not 
moral but that our judgements in detail were wrong 1 . There 
would in this view be such a discrepancy between our actual 
moral judgements and the true ones that the question might well 
be raised why we should trust them at all. Nay, if a Philosopher 
like Mr. Bradley is clever enough to find out that the real end of 
the Universe is something very different from what kindly and 
merciful men aim at, I fail to see why we should not, under his 
tuition, aim at co-operating with the aims of the Absolute, and 
universalize the maxim that heartless practical joking is better 
than kindliness and mutual goodwill. Mr. Bradley would doubt- 
less reply that he does not seriously pretend to have discovered 
what the absolute end is : but, if he does not know what it is 
why should he assume that it is so fundamentally different from 

1 See ib., p. 194. I am here using more theistic language than 
Mr. Bradley would himself use, for I can attach no meaning to the 
terms * good ' and * bad ' as applied to mere things ; but, since he admits 
that the Absolute is as much Will as Reason (without actually being either) 
I do not think I am seriously misrepresenting him or at least one side of his 
thought. Mr. Bradley 's whole doctrine about the Absolute seems to me to 
represent an impossible compromise or see-saw between a genuine theistic 
Idealism (which represents, I believe, his real mind), and a Spinozism into 
which he is led partly, no doubt, by his imagined discovery of fundamental 
contradictions in all thought (not merely human thought but all thought as 
such), but probably much more by his anxiety to differentiate his positions 
as much as possible from that of all Theologians, orthodox or liberal. There 
are many less unorthodox thinkers who play with Mr. Bradley's doctrine of 
a super-moral sphere, while professing to believe in a deity who is not (as 
with Mr. Bradley) an ' it ' (though, it would appear, an * it * which possesses 
or is consciousness or ' experience ') but a spiritual Being to which some of 
them do not even hesitate to ascribe personality. 


that which we think it to be? I have already attempted to 
show that there are no such fundamental contradictions in our 
actual moral judgements as to make it inconceivable that they 
should in principle be a true revelation of the absolute end *. 

But whatever may be thought about Mr. Bradley's reasons 
for doubting the validity in actual content of our moral judge- 
ments, he does not at bottom in such passages as have been 
referred to deny the validity of our moral categories. It is 
not a super-moral sphere that he has called into existence so 
much as a sphere in which a different Morality holds good not 
a ' non-moral ' or ' super-moral ' Absolute so much as an Absolute 
with a truer and higher Morality. He who rejects Mr. Bradley's 
reasons for assuming this fundamental discrepancy between the 
divine end and that approved as good by our moral consciousness, 
and who likes Mr. Bradley's own Morality much better than that 
which he attributes to his Absolute, has on that Philosopher's 
own showing a right not merely to call the Absolute good but to 
regard the Morality of the best men as a revelation of his. By 
his doctrine that the Absolute is good and cannot be described 
as bad, he has precluded himself from saying that the words 
good and evil have no meaning in reference to the Absolute. 
Morality means aiming at the good ; and Mr. Bradley does not 
deny that the Absolute aims at the good. Even on his own 
view of our actual, partly self-contradictory, Morality, there seems 
no reason why he should not admit that Morality has as_good 
a right -forfe regarded as a revelation of the Absolute as our 
scientific consciousness 2 ; and even the doctrine that both are 
riddled with contradictions would fail to reveal such a dis- 
crepancy between the moral and the religious point of view as 
he is anxious to discover. Morality would supply us with the 

1 See above, p. 209. 

3 Mr. Bradley goes near to admitting this when he says that 'higher, 
truer, more beautiful, better and more real these, on the whole, count in the 
universe as they count for us. And existence, on the whole, must corre- 
spond with our ideas ' (ib. p. 550). But why should we be right when we 
judge that one thing is lower than another, wrong when we judge that 
a thing is ' bad ' something which ought not to exist at all ? And how 
can an Absolute be perfect which produces something lower instead of 
epraetbing higher, unless he or it is limited in power? 

Chap, ii, v] ME. BRADLEY'S VIEW 273 

best and truest way of thinking of the Absolute, though the 
inadequacy of such a view might be greater according to him 
than Moralists with a less keen eye for ' contradictions ' see any 
reason for admitting 1 . 

It will be suggested, no doubt, that I am here overlooking 
that doctrine of degrees_of JTruth and Reality by which the 
doctrine of the non-morality of the Absolute is qualified. 
Mr. Bradley admits that to say that the Absolute is immoral 
or bad would be more untrue than to say that he is moral or 
good. The question which suggests itself is, 'how does 
Mr. Bradley know even that much, if our moral judgements are 
untrustworthy ? ' There are no doubt many strong assertions of 
the goodness of the Absolute side by side with the denial of his 
or 'its' morality many strong assertions of the superiority, 
even from the point of view of the Universe, of goodness over 
badness. I ask on what Mr. Bradley's handsome testimonial to 
the goodness or perfection of the Absolute is supposed to rest, 
when the verdict of our own moral consciousness is discredited ? 
To say that our moral judgements fail to some extent to corre- 
spond with moral judgements as they are in the Absolute 2 is 
one thing ; but to say that we can correct their deficiencies is 
another. And it is the last that Mr. Bradley attempts to do 
when he pronounces whfljM^A^Ql] AVJ! fn HA rp.]1y gi**l To 
admit the probability that our ideals are defective is one thing : 
to attempt their correction by directly contradicting them is 
another. To declare that the judgement cruelty is bad must in 

1 When Mr. Biadley in his chapter on Ultimate Doubts' (Appearance 
and Reality, chap, xxvii) admits the possibility (though not the probability) 
of an ultimate element of evil in things, he seems to assume that the evil 
must be found in the Will which wills the Universe (in so far as Will may 
be taken as an imperfect and one-sided aspect of the Absolute). It does not 
seem to occur to him that the evil may be something which, in language as 
inadequate but no more inadequate than that which he is himself compelled 
to use, may be described as a lack of Power which may be compatible with 
a Will for the good a Will which wills the evil only as a necessary means 
to the good. 

2 Mr. Bradley, of course, will not admit there are judgements at all in the 
Absolute. This is too wide a subject to discuss here ; but, at all events, he 
will admit that we cannot think about the Absolute without talking as 
though there were. 



the Absolute be transformed into the judgement ' cruelty to the 
exact extent to which it actually exists is good/ is not merely 
to pronounce that our moral judgements are inadequate and are 
' somehow ' transcended in the Absolute, but dogmatically to say 
that they are false and that others, which are admitted not to 
commend themselves to our actual moral consciousness, are true. 
Any inadequacy, or doubt, or invalidity that may cleave to the 
former judgement must cleave surely a fortiori to the last. 

And on what does the supposed intellectual necessity for this 
reversal of all our canons of value turn ? Upon an ideal of our 
thought. It makes a neater, tidier, more compact and coherent 
system of the Universe to think of the whole as perfectly good 
than to think of as a whole in which, though good predominates, 
there is some evil. But why should this intellectual ideal of 
self -consistency or harmony be regarded as a safer guide to the 
true nature of things than that ideal of Morality which claims in 
us to be of absolute and objective validity, and so to represent 
the true end of a rational will ? There can be no real ' harmony ' 
or 'perfection/ or 'coherence/ or absence of contradiction, in 
any picture or ideal or system of the Universe in which our 
highest ideals of value are flatly contradicted. 

The only way in which, as it seems to me, Mr. Bradley could 
escape the force of these objections would be by absolutely 
giving up the use of the terms good and evil in thinking of the 
Absolute, and cancelling all that he has said about the goodness 
of the Absolute, and, I must add, all that he has said about 
the intrinsic reasonableness of the Universe ; for a reasonable 
Universe means a Universe which realizes ends that are intrinsi- 
cally good, and it is only from our judgements of value that we 
know anything about goodness or indeed about 'ends/ And 
on one side of his thought Mr. Bradley certainly goes very near 
to an avowed adoption of this position. When Mr. Bradley 
pronounces the Absolute good, we naturally suppose him to 
mean something by the assertion ; but eventually, in the last 
paragraph of his book, he comes near to admitting that he means 
nothing by it. For there he tells us that 'the Reality is our 
criterion of worse and better, of ugliness and beauty, of true and 
false, of real and unreal. It in brief decides between, and gives 

Chap, ii, vi] VON HARTMANN'S VIEW 275 

a general meaning to, higher and lower V If, then, the real is 
our sole criterion of worth, if a thing is good in proportion to 
the amount of real being in it, the assertion that the Absolute is 
good means no more than the assertion that the Absolute is real. 
Now for us it is quite certain that the word ' good ' does not mean 
the same as ' real/ unless Mr. Bradley chooses, by definition, to 
make the word * real ' include our idea of good. If it be said that 
in the Absolute this difference is to be transcended, at all events 
our idea of good must be allowed to represent as important an 
aspect of the Absolute as our idea of real. It must not be 
simply cancelled, as is done when it is suggested that in or for 
the Absolute cruelty is good. The idea of good has as much 
right to be taken into consideration in our speculative con- 
struction of the ultimate nature of things as our idea of the real. 
I will sum up this necessarily brief and inadequate criticism 
of Mr. Bradley's position in the form of a dilemma. Either our 
moral consciousness is a guide to the ultimate nature of Reality 
or it is not. If it is, some things in the Universe pain and sin 
for instance are bad, and are none the less bad because they 
may be means to a greater good. If it is not, Mr. Bradley has no 
right to assert that the Absolute is good, for the idea of good is 
derived from the moral consciousness and cannot be derived from 
any other source. To say that our ideas of 'higher* and 
' better ' ' count in the Universe as they count in us/ and at the 
same time to speak of the ' good ' as meaning merely the ' real/ is 
(if I may be pardoned for using language which Mr. Bradley 
has used in another connexion) ' to trifle indecently with a subject 
which deserves some respect/ 


The theory of a super-moral sphere assumes another form in 
the writings of the great Pessimist, Eduard von Hartmann a . And 

1 Appearance and Reality, p. 552. This passage seems to involve formal 
contradiction with the statement that ' that which is highest to us is 
also in and to the Universe most real * (p. 560). In the first passage we are 
bidden to interpret goodness by Reality, in the latter Reality by our notions 
of goodness. 

2 These views are expounded in his best-known work, The Philosophy of 
the Unconscious (trans, by W. C. Coupland, 1893), and in his elaborate 

T 0, 


here the collision between the religious and the moral point of 
view is avowedly far less complete. Von Hartmann recognizes 
the existence of three spheres or stages in moral development. 
There is the sphere of mere Nature, the stage below Morality that 
of the beasts and, it may be, of purely ' natural man ' ; the moral 
stage ; and the super-moral. He contends that everything that 
happens, what we call moral and what we call immoral, is 
equally tending to the furtherance of an end the ultimate end 
of the Universe , that is (according to him) the extinction of 
evil and therefore, since consciousness necessarily brings with it 
more evil than good, the extinction of consciousness l . But 
the great modern Pessimist recognizes also that each of these 
views of the Universe, if taken by itself, is one-sided and imper- 
fect ; that either the first or the third, taken alone, would lead 
to immoral consequences in practice, and in theory to the 
negation of all objective moral obligation, in the existence of 
which there is no more convinced or more convincing believer 
than Von Hartmann himself 2 . Animals and infants are 
furthering the true end of the Universe by yielding to their 
natural instincts and impulses as each comes uppermost 
instincts and impulses which are unerringly guided to an end of 
which they are themselves entirely unconscious. But a moral 
being would not be promoting the true end of the Universe by 
so acting ; he can only further that end by being moral. It is 
true that from the third or super-moral point of view it must 
appear that the bad man's acts are also furthering the ends of the 
Absolute Will. But Von Hartmann recognizes that to say this 

treatise Das slttliche Betvusstsein, but the clearest expression of his views as 
to the relation between Morality and Religion is to be found in his shorter 
Ethische Studien, 1898. 

1 It is, however, according to Von Hartmann, no use to attempt this 
extinction by individual or even universal Suicide, because the same Absolute 
which has produced the existing number of men would immediately 
[why ?] produce other individuals to take their place (Das sittl. Bewusstsein, 
p. 476). Would he say that when by celibacy or other checks on population 
the number is restrained, the Absolute must necessarily create a corre- 
sponding number in other parts of the Universe ? The contention really 
reminds one of the old scholastic idea that the number of the saved must 
exactly equal the number of the fallen Angels. 

2 ' . . . Ethik ohne Objectivitat keinen Sinn hat ' (D. sittl. Beuwsstsein, p. 92). 

Chap, ii, vi] VON HARTMANN'S VIEW 277 

alone would be fatal to the very idea of moral obligation. He is 
not one of those who think it possible for a rational being to go 
on acting as a man upon moral principles the vanity of which he 
has as a Philosopher himself exposed. He recognizes that the 
end which Morality prescribes to man is not only the true and 
valid end for man, but part of the true and absolute end of the 
Universe. 1 When the moral consciousness assures us that 
Morality is an end-in-itself, that the diminution of human sufter- 
ing is better than its promotion and the like, the Absolute is not 
playing a trick upon us, or promoting its ends by a delusion of 
which all but Philosophers at least are the victims. The 
Absolute is telling us what is strictly and finally true. But 
there is a further truth which the moral man, as such, has not 
discovered that Morality, though an end-in-itself for man, is 
also something more. It is also a means to a further end the 
supreme end of the Universe. 

The immoral man is no doubt also promoting that end. And 
the religious man recognizes that fact, and acquiesces in the will 
of the Absolute. But such an admission carries with it no such 
destructive moral consequences as it does for the Optimist. For, 
though the general tendency of things is towards the good, it is 
not true, according to Von Hartmann, that all things are very 
good. The end which the Absolute is pursuing is only relatively 
good ; it tends towards the minimization of a radical evil, due to 
the fatal blunder of the Unconscious in giving birth to the 
world and with it to consciousness. And therefore, though in 
his way the bad man may possibly be promoting that end, he is 
never promoting it as much as the good man. Von Hartinann's 
philosophically enlightened religious man can never be tempted 
to do evil that good may come. He can never avail himself of 
the excuse to which no logical Optimist has ever succeeded in 
giving a satisfactory reply, ' Why should I not sin, when all will 
be the same in the end, since my sin will in the end contribute 
to the glory of God or true end of the Universe quite as much 
as my victory over temptation ? ' 2 The Hartmannian Pessimist 

1 'So hat das sittlich Gute seinen Ursprung immer unmittelbar oder 
mittelbar in der iibersittlichen Sphere ' (Ethische Studien, p. 23). 
8 It has been urged in reply to this line of thought (a) that the fact that 


must feel that, if he sins, he really does keep back the true end 
of the Universe ; the true end of the Universe may ultimately 
be attained, but not so soon, and therefore in a sense not so com- 
pletely as it would be if he had resisted that temptation instead 
of yielding to it. 

What then, it may be said, does Hartmann's doctrine of 
a super-moral sphere amount to ? It seems to involve two 
positions : 

( i ) That Morality is a means to a further end beyond itself, 
and an end in which Morality itself is not included. It is, 
indeed, relatively an end-in-itself inasmuch as, upon the hypo- 
thesis of a radical evil, it is an end-in-itself to minimize it ; but 
the good to which the Absolute is tending can only be attained 
by the extinction of consciousness, and therefore also of Morality 
in the sense in which we know it l . 

the sin if it occurs will make the Universe better supplies no reason why it 
should occur, and (6) that to the good man vice is distasteful perse, and there- 
fore he will avoid it even though its avoidance will not improve the Universe. 
I should reply (a) that my argument is that, on the optimistic hypothesis, 
there is no reason against sin if a man feels inclined to it, and (6) that the 
second argument really implies that this distastefulness of vice to the good 
man is a make-weight, so that the world without the wrong act is better 
than the world with it. According to the hypothesis, this must be a delusion 
which a rational man will surely seek to get rid of. 

1 It is true that Von Hartmann sometimes seems to treat even the 
minimization of evil in the present as having no objective value as an end 
but only as a means to the further ultimate end (e. g. Ethische Studien, 
p. 156). Elsewhere, however, he recognizes that the minimization of 
human pain and the promotion of human Culture (which between them 
represent his view of the end for man) are a part of the absolute end 
(ib. pp. 182, 183). Here and in Das sittliche Beivwstsein he seems to 
oscillate between making Morality an end which it is moral to promote 
merely as a means and making it intrinsically valuable, though also a means 
to a further end. The statement that * der Mensch nicht Selbstzweck ist,' 
but ' nur ein relativer Mittelzweck im universalen teleologischen Organismus 
der Welt 1 (Das sittliche Bewusstsein, p. 442) seems to me formally incon- 
sistent with the admission that ' Allerdings ist jedes Individuum selbst ein 
objectiver Partialzweck im Reiche der Zwecke' (p. 461). His difficulties 
arise in part from features of his system which it is impossible here to 
criticize in detail. While, in dealing with human Morality, he insists upon 
* autonomy ' and self-denial to the point of Rigorism, all this suffering is 
supposed to be imposed upon man merely as a means to the Well-being of 
the Absolute, whose end is purely ' eudaemonistic ' (i. e. hedonistic or selfish). 

Chap, ii, vi] VON HARTMANN'S VIEW 279 

(2) It involves the denial of Morality to the Absolute, but then 
Von Hartmann quite consistently refuses to pronounce that the 
Absolute, or the world in which the Absolute has revealed his 
unconscious essence, is perfectly good. The present course of 
things is, indeed, directed towards the best possible, since it is 
doing its best to get rid of the original evil ; and so far there 
seems no reason why the Unconscious should not be looked upon 
as perfectly moral or good (as we are expressly told that it is 
perfectly wise), but then after all the Absolute as Will is itself 
the cause of that original evil of which as Reason the same 
Absolute is consistently endeavouring to get rid. Whatever 
may be thought of this strange cosmogony, which recalls some 
fantastic gnostic system rather than a sober philosophical thesis, 
Von Hartmann is not involved in the difficulties of those who 
believe in a conscious Absolute who is perfectly good, and 
yet wills things contrary to a Morality which in nevertheless 
pronounced reasonable. 

It is clear that any objection which may be taken to 
Von Hartmann's position from our point of view turns upon his 
pessimistic view of the world and not upon his theory of a super- 
moral Absolute taken by itself. He has what seems to me 
fundamentally the right conception of the relation between 
Morality and Religion, though his Religion is not mine. Whether 
an unconscious Will, which by a strange freak of irration- 

If there is any real validity in our moral judgements, how can we escape 
condemning the Absolute for his selfishness? The only answer which 
Von Hartmann supplies is (i) that the suffering of the Absolute, if it could 
not work out its redemption, would be endless, and therefore greatly in 
excess of those which it imposes upon man as a means to deliverance ; and 
(2) that, in some sense which he wholly fails to explain, the sufferings of 
the Absolute are also the sufferings of the individual, who is therefore after 
all only redeeming himself by the sufferings which are (after his own 
extinction) to work out the redemption of the Absolute. The fundamental 
difficulty in Von Hartmann seems to be this : either the Happiness of the 
Absolute is an end in itself or it is not. If it is, so in its measure must be 
the happiness of men. If human happiness is intrinsically worthless, so 
must be that of the Absolute. Moreover, if happiness, though part of the 
end, is not the whole end for men, it can only be part of the end for the 
Absolute. Von Hartmann can only escape this dilemma by treating as 
a delusion that objectivity of the moral judgement on which his whole system 


ality in the past created the evil against which that same 
Unconscious, under the guidance of Unconscious Reason, is in 
a state of continual strife, can be an object of religious emotion, 
and whether such an emotion as He or it may be capable of 
kindling can be a powerful moral lever, we may be allowed to 
doubt. Whether again a creed which holds that the ultimate 
end is extinction of consciousness and conscious Morality can 
emphasize the value of goodness, and invite to the pursuit of it, 
as effectually as one which represents the good of all conscious 
beings as the end, and Morality as an element in that end, is 
another point on which my view differs fundamentally from 
Von Hartmann's. But at bottom that very acute writer admits 
the fundamental postulate of all rational Morality and all ethical 
Religion that the ultimate end of human conduct is (albeit, 
according to him, somewhat indirectly) to promote the true end 
of the Universe. And he realizes the futility of attempting to 
find an adequate theoretical justification or an adequate motive 
in practice for a Morality going beyond compliance with the 
conventional requirements of one's immediate circle in any view 
of Ethics which does not involve this intimate connexion with 


The two eminent thinkers whom we have last examined have 
been found to be after all not thorough-going in their doctrine of 
a super-moral Absolute ; and I have attempted to contend that 
this want of thoroughness involves inconsistency. In the case 
of Professor Taylor, however, it is otherwise. With him the 
contradiction between the moral point of view and the ' absolute ' 
point of view inadequately adumbrated in the religious con- 
sciousness is final and irreconcilable, unqualified by the doctrine 
of ' degrees of truth and reality,' of which in other connexions 
he makes so much *. I have already pointed out that Professor 
Taylor, in refusing to accept Mr. Bradley 's doctrine that the moral 
consciousness pronounces all self-sacrifice and all self-realization 
to be good and equally good, has really given up the principal 
ground on which Mr. Bradley seeks to convict Morality of 
1 The Problem of Conduct, chap. viii. 

Chap, ii, vii] PROFESSOR TAYLOR'S VIEW 281 

internal contradiction, and therefore refuses to attribute it to the 
Absolute. Professor Taylor's indictment against Morality seems 
to me, if I may say so with sincere respect, to turn upon more 
obvious confusions than those which I have had the temerity to 
suspect in Mr. Bradley. In the first place, he confuses the 
practical difficulty which the moral consciousness experiences in 
deciding questions of Casuistry with the intrinsic impossibility 
of such a solution. He fails to see that our mistakes and 
difficulties in this department constitute no more ground for 
doubting the objective validity of Moral Reason as such than 
the blunders or perplexities of a schoolboy do for attributing 
a merely subjective validity to the multiplication table. On this 
point I have already dwelt. Secondly, Professor Taylor seems 
to think that the position of those who attribute objectivity to 
the moral judgement, and consequently moral goodness to God, is 
sufficiently refuted by pointing to the undoubted fact that the 
details of human duty depend in part upon the circumstances 
and physical organization of human nature that the Seventh 
Commandment, for instance, would have no meaning in reference 
to the conduct of sexless beings, and so on. But to maintain 
that for beings otherwise constituted the details of the Moral 
Law might be different from what they are for us does not 
impugn the objective validity of the judgement that for men 
adultery is wrong. By saying that the judgement is objectively 
true we mean that every intelligence, divine, angelic, or other- 
wise, must recognize its truth, or, if it does not recognize it, is in 
error. And the judgement as to what is right or wrong for man 
must ultimately be based on judgements of value which ought 
to govern the volition of all rational beings in all circumstances. 
The judgement that the mutual love of husband and wife in an 
ideal marriage is one of the noblest things on this planet is 
none the less true because the lower animals are incapable of it, 
or because beings of a higher order may be above it. And the 
truth of that proposition depends ultimately upon the judgement 
which asserts the value of Love in general a judgement which 
we have every reason for believing to spring from one, and that 
the most important, element in the character of God. 

Against the position taken up by Professor Taylor I can only 


refer back to those arguments in favour of the objective character 
of the Moral Law, and against the Moral Sense position of 
which his ethical system is virtually a revival, which have 
already been developed in the chapter on ' Reason and Feeling/ 
If by giving up the attempt to recognize in Morality even 
an imperfect revelation of ultimate Reality, Professor Taylor 
has avoided some of the difficulties which beset the position 
of Mr. Bradley and Von Hartmann, it is hard to see what 
grounds a writer who takes so thoroughly naturalistic or 
' psychological ' a view of Ethics can have left for the assumption 
which is intelligible in ethical Rationalists that, though God is 
not moral, the Universe as a whole is good. If our moral judge- 
ments are, not merely (as they are to Mr. Bradley) riddled with 
contradictions, and so very inadequate and untrustworthy 
presentments of Reality, but purely and unmitigatedly sub- 
jective, what reason has Professor Taylor for pronouncing that the 
Universe as a whole is perfectly good ? Mr. Bradley has never 
denied that moral judgements are rational ; he has not even 
denied them a kind of objectivity ; Professor 

them fc> modes of fueling. This seems to follow from the 
declaration 1 that our moral judgements are simply ' feelings of 
approval and disapproval/ while it is further admitted that ' to 
say that I approve such and such an action or quality is, in fact, 
to say that when I imagine its entrance into the course of my 
future experience my state of mind is a pleasant one V Yet if 
the idea of value is not a category of thought, what can be 
meant by the judgement that the world is perfectly good on the 
whole ? What can ' good ' in such a connexion mean ? For 
Professor Taylor it ought only to mean that it excites a particular 
kind of feeling in the genus homo or some of its members. But 
Professor Taylor admits that it does not excite this feeling in him, 
for to him as a man sin and pain appear bad. On what ground 
then can he pronounce that for the Absolute or in the Absolute 
they appear good? If the judgement of value be merely 
a feeling, why should we suppose that the Absolute shares the 
peculiar mode of human feeling which we style moral ; or if we 
do think that the Absolute shares these human emotions, or 
1 The Problem of Conduct, p. 104. 2 Ib. p. 124. 

Chap, ii, vii] PROFESSOR TAYLOR'S VIEW 283 

something analogous to them, why should we suppose that they 
are excited in Him by different courses of action from those 
which excite them in us ? To oppose to our deliberate judge- 
ments of value an a priori construction about the requirements 
of absolute harmony and the like in a perfect or absolute or 
' pure ' experience seems to me to put mere intellectual aspirations 
in place of the rational interpretation of actual experience. 

Professor Taylor does not seem to me to escape the difficulties of 
his position by the admission that, though the moral judgement 
does not actually constitute a revelation of pure truth, it does tell 
us something about the nature of absolute Reality. He pro- 
nounces not merely (like Mr. Bradley) that frm^ fhf pnini o f 
th^-Arbeelute badness is good r but that it is o&^good 
. The paean in praise of wickedness with which 

Professor Taylor has concluded his book is as eloquent as any that 
was ever sung in praise of Virtue. Now this seems to imply that 
Professor Taylor has not made up his mind whether Morality 
is self -contradictory and one-sided (i) only in the same sense as 
all the Sciences, or (2) unlike ordinary scientific knowledge. 
The former contention, even if established, would not justify the 
assertion that the bad man in his place contributes as much to 
the good of the Universe as the good man, any more than 
a theoretical admission of abstractness or * one-sidedness ' in 
scientific knowledge would justify the assertion that the denial 
of the law of gravitation is as true as the assertion of it. And 
when Professor Taylor pronounces that the vice which the moral 
consciousness pr<gnonno.efl hml is a.s yj^fthlp. RSI fog vjrt uft which it 
good he ji^decjaring not that our moral judgements 

are_&n inadequate ^expression, of the nature of Reality, but that 
the nainre jjf Reality is the opposite of that which the ijporal 
consciousness pronounces it tq^be^ And in so pronouncing he 
claims (let me urge once more) to possess precisely that know- 
ledge of absolute truth which his theory disclaims. Once more, 
to all forms of the assertion that what we call badness is 
actually good I oppose the verdict of the moral consciousness. 
If that verdict is to be trusted, the assertion is false : if it is not 
to be trusted, it is impossible for Mr. Bradley or Prof essor Taylor 
to know that badness is good : for it is only by an exercise of 


bhe moral consciousness that we can know whether a thing is 
good or not. 

Professor Taylor will no doubt appeal to the testimony of the 
religious consciousness. It would take too long to examine here 
all the astounding things which Professor Taylor and other super- 
Moralists have told us about the religious consciousness. It 
is true that in flights of religious rhetoric and ecstasies of 
Mysticism religious minds have sometimes involved themselves 
in all the difficulties of philosophic Optimism. But, speaking 
broadly, the religious consciousness has never really ' transcended ' 
the distinction between good and evil in the way in which it is 
assumed to do by Professor Taylor. It has never declared that 
the distinction between moral and immoral is already abolished, 
and has for the religious man no existence l . It has always 
recognized the existence of evil in the present. Its faith has 
been not, indeed, that the distinction between moral and 
immoral is to be done away with but that, for all or for some, 
evil is already partially and will hereafter be more completely 
turned into good. Its faith has been 

that good shall fall 
At last far off at last, to all, 
And every winter change to spring. 

This has been at bottom in greater or less degree the real 
attitude of the deepest religious thought and feeling towards the 
evil in the world. And in so far as that faith has been accepted, 
Religion has, I venture to think, done more for the world than 
it would have done by persuading it that the difference between 
virtue and vice is a mere human delusion. 

It is difficult to understand how Professor Taylor can believe 
that the Moral Law can, either from the point of view of reflective 
Reason or as a matter of psychological fact, retain its full force 
and validity for minds which have seen through it, and know 
that from the absolute point of view, and therefore for God, 
that Law possesses no validity whatever. If the Absolute had 
kept its own secret, one might understand how the delusion 
might have done its work in furthering the Absolute's ' super- 

1 Always excepting the Theologians who make Morality dependent upon 
the arbitrary Will of God. 

Chap, ii, vii] PROFESSOR TAYLOR'S VIEW 385 

moral ' purposes ; but, now that Professor Taylor has found it out, 
must not people put to themselves the question whether the 
absolute point of view is not the right point of view, and whether 
they can be blamed for doing what will promote the absolute 
end, and ignoring distinctions which for the truly rational con- 
sciousness have no existence or meaning whatever ? Professor 
Taylor is not, indeed, very anxious to claim Religion as an ally of 
Morality : that, he appears to consider, would involve a kind of 
degradation for Religion. And yet, as he does not disavow 
a real sympathy not merely with the highly esoteric ' Religion ' 
of our super-moral Philosophers but with the ordinary ' Evan- 
gelical Christianity ' which is known to history and common life, 
he would, I presume, regard Religion as not wholly unconnected 
with, or, at all events, as not antagonistic to, ordinary human 
Morality. How belief in a deity who, it would appear, delights 
in wickedness at least as much as he delights in goodness can be 
in any way favourable to the moral life it is difficult to under- 
stand. Some connexion at least between the end for man and 
the end of the Universe is essential to the recognition of an 
objective significance in the moral judgement, and without the 
recognition of such an objective significance, Morality becomes 
a very different thing from what it is for the developed moral 

1 In justice to Professor Taylor I ought to say that the attitude which he 
adopts towards Morality in his later Elements of Metaphysic seems to me 
materially different from that taken up in the Pwblem of Conduct. In the 
former he is willing even to accept (doubtless with reserves and apologies) the 
idea that one side of the Absolute's nature may be expressed by the word 
Love, and generally appears not merely in his character as a man, but 
also as a Philosopher to interpret the nature of the Absolute in terms of 
our moral ideals. Whether he would attempt to reconcile these asser- 
tions with the position taken up in his earlier work I am unable to say. 
I will only add that the Optimism of the former work seems to be much 
qualified. It would now appear that Reality is only 'good on the whole,' 
and that it is not better because that would be impossible. These pro- 
positions, with which I for one should not be disposed to quarrel, seem to 
me quite different from the through and through perfection which, in the 
Problem of Conduct, is ascribed not merely to the world as a whole, but to 
everything in it. Since writing this note I have seen Professor Taylor's review 
of Dr. McTaggart's Some Dogma* of Religion in the Philosophical Review (July, 
1906), in which he explicitly gives up the view which I have criticized. 



We have, then, discovered no reason in the arguments of the 
super-moral Religionists for abandoning the position that the 
end prescribed to man by his own moral consciousness must be 
part of the true end of the Universe. That there is one absolute 
standard of values, which is the same for all rational beings, is 
just what Morality means. Nothing less than that is implied 
by the idea of absolute value which underlies the simplest 
moral judgement, when its implications are analysed and 
reflected on. 

It may, indeed, be suggested that we do possess in human 
intelligence the form of the Moral Law the bare idea of an 
end, the bare notion of something which ought absolutely to be 
done without any power of giving a content to that form, of 
saying what things in particular possess this value, and what 
things therefore ought actually to be done. But such a view 
implies a more than Kantian divorce of form from content. 
The form or category of the Moral Law is only got by abstraction 
from actual concrete moral judgements. To maintain that we do 
know that the Universe has an end, though we are wholly 
without the power of determining what that end is, would be 
(as I have already suggested) like maintaining that we have 
indeed a conception of number which is of objective validity, 
but that we have no reason to believe that the actual contents 
of the multiplication table belong to any region but that of mere 
'appearance/ Neither in the ethical nor in any other depart- 
ment of human thought is it possible to prove that our thought 
does not deceive us : and in this as in other spheres our thought 
is doubtless inadequate. The wide differences of opinion which 
are found even in the developed human intelligence in the 
matter of Ethics constitute a reason, indeed, for supposing that 
our conception of the ultimate end the conception hitherto 
reached by any actual human being represents an inadequate 
view of the truth; but they supply no reason for assuming 
a total and fundamental discrepancy between a moral truth, 
which is merely human, and a metaphysical or religious truth, 
which is divine. Our ethical, like all our knowledge, is inade- 

Chap, ii, viii] PROBLEM OF EVIL 287 

quate more inadequate no doubt than the knowledge already 
attained in some branches of Physical Science, which is less 
inexact within its own limits just because it is more abstract 
and incomplete. It is not enough to say, as Von Hartmann l at 
times seems disposed to say, that moral judgements do represent 
a particular means to the ultimate end, but that the end itself 
may be quite different. For the very essence of the moral 
judgement is that the end towards which we conceive it to be 
right to direct our actions possesses absolute value. If we are 
fundamentally deceived as to that, we have no reason to believe 
that these acts are even a means to the true end 2 . That the 
ends to which we attribute value may be ends which ought not 
in particular cases to be attained because their attainment would 
make impossible the attainment of ends still more valuable, may 
very well be the case. That in some such direction is to be 
found the ultimate explanation of the existence of evil has 
already been asserted, but that evil is a means to the greatest 
attainable good is a proposition which is only maintainable upon 
the hypothesis that there is in the ultimate nature of things 
that is to say the ultimate nature of God an inherent reason 
why greater good should not be attainable. It may be im- 
possible to prove even in the sense in which any ultimate meta- 
physical truth is capable of proof that that ultimate reason is 
not to be sought in a defect of goodness in the Being from 
whom all Reality is derived. But the dilemma forces itself 
upon us that the explanation must be sought either in such 
a moral limitation or in some other kind of limitation a limita- 
tion which, in the doubtless inadequate and analogical language 
which we are always compelled to use in speaking of ultimate 

1 I have pointed out above (p. 278) that this is only one aspect of his 

* This is quite consistent with maintaining that, when there is no 
consciousness of an end at all, in the lower animals and in men so long and 
so far as they have impulses which are independent of their rational 
judgements, such impulses may be directed towards the true end of the 
Universe. The savage's passion of Kevenge tends no doubt in many ways 
to the true end of the Universe, but, as soon as he is capable of feeling that 
he ought to restrain it, the restraint must tend to that end more than the 
unlimited indulgence of it. 


Reality, may bo best described as a limitation of Power. To 
adopt the former alternative would involve the strange idea that 
the Being from whom all our ideas are derived, and who cannot 
reasonably be thought of as subject to the limitations which are 
connected with the life of the bodily organism, deliberately acts in 
a way contrary to the dictates of his own thought, to judgements 
which present themselves to Him as necessary truths : the latter 
view has nothing against it but a groundless assumption. To 
this consideration may be added the extreme improbability (on 
any theory which represents the Universe as rational) that the 
derived human consciousness should be superior in reasonable- 
ness of insight or in reasonableness of will to its source, or at 
least under an unavoidable necessity of thinking itself so a far 
greater improbability than is involved in supposing that the power 
of realizing its ideals possessed by the ultimate Will, while enor- 
mously transcending that of the derived will, should still fall 
short of a power to produce good only with no evil at all. 

Not only is the hypothesis of pure Optimism not necessary 
to Morality ; it is positively hostile to it. It is a postulate of 
Morality that the ends that we feel ourselves bound to work for 
should be in some measure attainable if we will them, but it is 
a postulate of Morality also that they should not be completely 
attainable, if we do not will them. The very essence of the moral 
judgement is not merely that the right act promotes the end, but 
that the wrong act retards it. The judgement that the act is 
really a means to the end may of course be erroneous like any 
other particular human judgement ; but it is the very heart of 
all our ethical thinking that, if and in so far as the judgement is 
ethically justified, it is a real means to the absolute end. Even 
the really bad act may of course be a means to an ultimate good, 
but it must be a means to a less good than might have been 
attained if the action ethically right in the circumstances had 
been done. Had the agent a full knowledge that his act would 
produce more good than harm, the action would have been a 
right action. When more good than harm comes out of an 
action which it was sinful in the agent to will, that must be 
because he did not know of the good effects, or because he willed 
them for some other reason than these good effects. So the moral 

Chap, ii, viii] IMMORALITY OF OPTIMISM 289 

consciousness pronounces, and its pronouncement can only be a 
true one if a wrong act really makes the world worse than it 
would otherwise have been 1 . Only if the Universe is less good than 
a Universe which we can imagine, can the alternative which is 
presented to us in every act of moral judgement be, as our moral 
consciousness assures us that it is, a real alternative. It is not 
here asserted that in every or any such choice between alter- 
natives the possibility of the alternative actually rejected was, 
even from the point of view of absolute and complete knowledge, 
a real possibility 2 : but only that, if the act ethically right had 
been done instead of the act ethically wrong, the Universe on 
the whole would have been a better Universe than it actually is. 
Such is the postulate implied by every moral system which 
really accepts the idea of an objective Morality reflected, how- 
ever imperfectly, in our ethical judgements reflected imperfectly, 
but reflected less and less imperfectly as those judgements become 
ethically more advanced and more reasonable. The end of the 
Universe must be the evolution of souls in which what our moral 
consciousness pronounces good shall be more and more realized. 
If less good is at any time realized in preference to more good, 
that represents one of those inherent limitations without the 
assumption of which we cannot give any reasonable or intelli- 
gible account of the Universe being what it is. 

In speaking of the end of the Universe we must not of course 
assume that the realization of this end lies only in the future, 
that it is literally a * far off divine event ' : whatever has 
any value in the present forms part of the end. In so far, 
for instance, as the lower animals enjoy pleasure, that is good 
a partial realization of the ultimate end, though it may be 
also a means to some further and greater good. When an 

1 If the ' felix culpa ' of the Roman Liturgy is to be justified, we should 
have to say that, had Adam known the consequences (according to traditional 
Theology) of his sin, it would not have been a sin. I do not deny that 
a particular wrong act, done with bad intentions, might sometimes inciden- 
tally leave the world better than it would have been without that particular 
wrong act, but then a world in which the good effect would have been pro- 
duced without the sin would have been still better. 

8 I am not here arguing for a 'liberurn arbitrium indifferentiae,* as is 
explained in the next chapter. 



animal suffers, that must be a means to a good otherwise unattain- 
able for itself or its fellows or for some higher race yet to be 
evolved. If the animal is incapable of the higher goods which 
human beings enjoy, that must be because the inherent limita- 
tions of Reality make it impossible that that animal should have 
been a moral being without a larger loss of good upon the whole. 
The end which we must suppose to be the end of the Universe 
must be the greatest good on the whole, the greatest good that 
is possible ; that is to say, the good that necessarily flows from a 
Will of perfect goodness but limited power. And human duty 
must consist in co-operation with that Will. Only the Religion 
which proclaims that identity between the divine end and the 
end revealed in the moral consciousness at its highest can be 
regarded as finally and absolutely valuable either as an aid to 
Morality or as an end in itself, though, of course, Religions which 
more or less fall short of this ideal may have their relative and 
temporary justification. And if a Religion is not of use in the 
interests of Morality that is to say, of that end which Morality 
bids us promote it is of no use at all, upon the assumption 
which we have throughout made and attempted to justify the 
assumption that our moral judgements possess objective validity. 
It may be objected that we have no right to oppose the 
Goodness of God to his Power, as though they were distinct 
qualities controlling and limiting one another, and to pronounce 
the one unlimited, and the other limited. I should reply that 
every distinction of elements or of aspects in the divine nature 
based upon the analogy of human experience must necessarily 
be an inadequate representation of the ultimate nature of Reality. 
We can distinguish between thought and feeling and willing in 
men : and we cannot think of the divine Mind at all without 
supposing that in that Mind, too, there is thinking and feeling 
and willing, or something analogous to each of them. And yet 
it is impossible that thought and feeling can be related in 
God as they are related in us that in God the object of 
thought should be, as it is in us, something not actually 
experienced, something merely representative of a reality without 
being that reality; that God's thought consists in making 
abstractions which (as Mr. Bradley has taught us) necessarily 


leave out so much of the actual fact l , in inferences which 
imply that something has become known which was previously 
unknown; or again, that feeling should be in God exactly 
what it is in beings whose experience is limited and conditioned 
by a material organism. And yet without these distinctions of 
thought and feeling we cannot attach any significance to the idea 
of Mind, and could mean nothing when we say that God is Mind 
or Spirit. All human thinking implies abstraction that is to say, 
the separation in thought of aspects of Reality which in actual 
fact are not apart but together. When we oppose God's Goodness 
to his Power, we are using exactly the same kind of abstraction 
which we use in distinguishing between feeling and thought and 
will in God. And there is this further justification of our 
procedure. I can attach a definite meaning to the idea of perfect 
goodness as definite as any conception that I can form of a 
Spirit in which the limitations and imperfections of the spirits 
actually known to my experience are left out. The idea of 
* infinite ' or * unlimited ' power is a meaningless expression. 
It implies an ultimate Reality a Will which has no definite 
characteristics or properties at all. And further, such a concept 
implies a contradiction to what we mean when we say that 
God is perfectly good. However much good there was in any 
actual world even if that good were unqualified by any evil, 
we could always ask * why should there not have been twice that 
good ? * And to that question there could never be an answer as 
long as we regard God as a Being in whom there are infinite or 
unlimited potentialities of creation. 


To ask what is the truth and value of the various historical 
Religions in accordance with the standard here set up, is an 
enquiry which would carry us far beyond the limits of the 
present work. It cannot be too strongly insisted on that Re- 
ligion has never exercised any great or widespread moral 
influence over mankind in a purely abstract or philosophical form. 

1 e.g. the statement 'trees are green, 1 or even ' this tree is green,' does 
not tell us anything about the particular kind of green : no tree is green in 
general, and yet all thought involves the use of Universals. 

U 2 


In their historical form the higher Religions of mankind have 
always been, and are likely to be for the most part, the creations 
of great personalities, developed and appropriated by societies. 
In this social appropriation of Religions which have been founded 
by a particular Founder or have gradually evolved at a particular 
epoch in time, the criticism, the interpretations or the corrections 
supplied by Philosophy, and particularly by ethical Philosophy, 
have played an important and conspicuous part. But the busi- 
ness of the Philosopher who has any belief in the power and 
value of Religion is rather to determine the attitude of the 
reflective mind towards existing Religions and Churches than to 
substitute some system of his own for them. An examination 
of the actual contents of the higher Religions is the business of 
religious, and not of purely ethical, Philosophy. But a few 
remarks may be made on the attitude which ought to be adopted 
towards existing forms of Religion by any one who has so far 
followed the present writer's argument. 

All theistic Religions have more or less consciously and con- 
sistently asserted that view of the relation between the absolute 
end and the moral end which has been set forth in this work. 
They have all asserted that the Will of God, is a Will for the 
best possible. The religious consciousness has at all times been 
exposed to the temptation to distort this proposition into the 
assertion that wjxat God wills is, justjrecause it is actually willed, 
the ethically be$t. But, though many historical Religions have 
tended towards Theism and consequently towards that identifi- 
cation of Religion and Ethics which I have here pleaded, only 
three great historical Religions have completely and consistently 
realized that goal : Judaism, the Christianity which has grown 
out of Judaism, and the Mohammedanism which, if not actually 
a mere corruption of Judaism and Christianity, would certainly 
not have been what it is without them. Only perhaps in Chris- 
tianity, and in Christianity at its best, has that identification of 
the ethically best with the actual Will of God been fully realized 
and kept free from degenerating into the immoral proposition 
that the Will of God, as revealed not in the moral consciousness 
but in the actual course of events, is the ethically best l . The 

1 I do not, of course, deny that at certain periods this idea has appeared 

Chap, ii, ix] CHRISTIANITY 293 

claim of Christianity to be the 'absolute' or ' final' Religion 
must rest in the long run firstly upon the superior clearness and 
definiteness with which it proclaims a conception of God based 
upon the ethical ideal ; secondly, upon the fact that its ethical 
ideal represents the moral ideal at its highest. 

It may be asked ' where is this Christian ideal to be found, and 
how is it known to be the highest V To the second of these 
questions I need only answer that the moral consciousness alone 
can be the final judge of the truth, validity, and sufficiency 
of a moral ideal. The first is an historical question which 
I have here no room to answer, except by expressing my belief 
that the ideal alike of human life and of the divine Nature 
actually to be found in the critically sifted records of the life and 
teaching of Jesus Christ is, in its essential principles, the ideal 
which the moral consciousness of Humanity still accepts and pro- 
claims l . At the same time it is only in principle and not in detail 
(as has been already insisted 2 ) that there can be any finality 
about any moral ideal whatever, and consequently in any 
Religion which is to include a moral ideal. The idea of a 
development through the consciousness of the religious com- 
munity is as essential to a just conception of Christianity as the 
assertion of the unique importance of the historical Christ. If 
there were no development of the moral ideal, and of the Theo- 
logy which is based upon the moral ideal, the inherited and 
stereotyped ideal of the past would no longer express the living 
convictions of a world which moves. In proportion as any 
development should not be in its essence a real development 
in harmony with the spirit of the historic Christ, that develop- 
ment could not claim to be really Christian, but it is impossible 
to define a priori what degree of development would involve 

in Christian Theology, or that it is familiar to individual enlightened 
adherents of other Religions, particularly to the late Judaism which can 
hardly have been uninfluenced by Christian ideas. 

1 If I should be wrong in this view, I should have made a mistake as an 
Historian, and as a Theologian in so far as the content of Theology is 
necessarily in part derived from History, but the mistake would leave my 
Moral Philosophy unaffected. I make this remark to avoid a possible 
misrepresentation of the above pages. 

* Book II, chap. v. 


such a new departure as to render the Religion that admitted it 
no longer entitled to the distinctive name of Christianity. That 
the ideal which is still approved by the most developed moral 
consciousness of the present day is such a legitimate develop- 
ment of the teaching and character of Jesus is a proposition 
which could, I believe, be supported by a critical examination of 
the historical facts. If the reasons which have been given in an 
earlier chapter l for believing that that ideal in its essence will 
not be transcended, the Religion of the future will remain Chris- 
tianity, however much it may hereafter be developed by growing 
experience on the one hand and by the development of the moral 
consciousness on the other. If the essence of true Religion 
be the identification of the Will of God with the highest ethical 
ideal, every development of the moral ideal will necessarily 
carry with it a corresponding religious development. Both on 
the religious and on the ethical side, therefore, Christianity can 
only claim to be the final or absolute Religion by showing itself, 
at the same time, also a constantly growing and developing 
Religion. And the belief in such a development is historically 
an essential and characteristic element in the Religion itself. 
Belief in the Holy Ghost is as much an article of the Christian 
Creed as belief in the historic Son of God. 

The view that the religious, attitude carries us into some 
super-moral region and enables us to attain_a point of view 
from_ which_ moraLjiifltinctions aj^'ii&usjided ' has already 
been sufficiently dealt with. That such a Religion is possible 
may be freely admitted. But such Religion is, an I contend, 
a Religion which, even from the point of view of those who 
regard Morality as of merely human and subjective validity, 
ought not to be encouraged. Such is precisely the kind of 
Religion which at every age of the world's history exists in 
sufficient abundance to supply no little justification for the 
Lucretian verdict upon Religion in general : 

Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum. 
1 Above, p. 177 sq. 


If the value of everything is determined by the moral judge- 
ment, there can be no value in a Keligion which is opposed to 
Morality. But even those who believe in a Morality which is in 
essential harmony with Religion, and in a Religion which does not 
seek to ' transcend ' Morality, may possibly object to our limiting 
the contents of the religious consciousness entirely to the moral 
ideal. And no doubt a certain amount of explanation or quali- 
fication is required to justify the language which I have used. 
It has already been pointed out that we cannot isolate the moral 
consciousness. Every moral ideal implies a great deal besides 
itself. If the end which it is a moral duty to pursue includes 
the effort to attain a true view of the Cosmos and a true appre- 
ciation of everything in it which there is value in knowing 
or beauty in contemplating, the assertion that our knowledge of 
God is based entirely upon the moral ideal will not necessarily 
imply that our idea of God must owe nothing to the develop- 
ment of the scientific or the aesthetic consciousness, or foster 
that narrowness and austerity of view which is often associated 
with strong assertions of the importance of c moral/ ' ethical/ or 
' practical ' interests. An adequate recognition of the value 
which our Moral Reason discovers in Science and in Art, in the 
beauty possessed by the world of Nature and of imagination, 
is part of true Morality, and therefore must contribute its share 
to our conception of God and of the divine end. If God wills 
Nature, every part of Nature must tell us something of God. 
And every change in our scientific or aesthetic attitude towards 
the world must bring with it some change in our attitude or 
subjective feeling towards God. If by Religion we mean a man's 
total attitude intellectual, emotional, and practical towards 
the Universe as a whole, it cannot be denied that intellectual 
progress is continually bringing with it changes in Religion, 
even apart from the changes which increased knowledge of 
Nature necessarily brings with it in the details of human duty. 
It is of great importance, no doubt, to recognize that, while the 
detailed knowledge of scientific law affects very slightly either 
our emotional or our practical attitude towards the Universe as 
a whole or the Mind of which that Universe is the expression, 
the larger changes in man's attitude towards Nature know- 


ledge of the vastness of the Universe, belief in the universality 
of natural law, the substitution of evolution for special creation 
and the like -do affect in important ways our attitude towards 
God. But after all it remains true that it is only from the 
moral consciousness that we can gather any idea of the character 
or final purpose of God. Nature -ieils --Hs^-souifithmg^ about what 
God[ actually wjll&jiut knows nothing of the difference between 
ends and means : it tells us nothing about values ;"" and ^therefore, 
by itself , it tells us nothing about the character of God_and the 
deeper meaning- .of the Universe. For it is not merely because 
tilings ffgg>but because ^he^Lbftyft^fthiftj that we believe that they 
form part of the end for God. And our knowledge of the 
character or will of God is based upon our conception of his end. 
The scientific consciousness may tell us that a law is true ; the 
aesthetic consciousness may tell us that the world is beautiful. 
But that Truth and Beauty in general, or that particular truths 
and particular beauties, have value, is revealed to us only by the 
moral or value-ju^ingconsciQusness. And it is our ideas of 
value that determine our practical attitude towards God and the 
world, and that inspire those emotions which are capable of 
affecting the will. It is the attitude of the will, together with 
the knowledge and the emotions which affect the will, that we 
generally understand by the term Religion. 

That mere intellectual knowledge of Nature's laws does not 
by itself constitute Religion or even what we call religious 
belief, there is a general consensus. There is perhaps a tendency 
in some quarters to give the name of Religion to the emotion 
which is inspired by the scientific knowledge and the aesthetic 
appreciation of Nature, even when the emotion does not in any 
direct and immediate way affect action J . Whether such emotion 
can be called religious, is a question of words which it is hardly 
worth while to discuss. Knowledge and aesthetic appreciation and 
the emotions associated with them are no doubt elements in the 
ideal relation towards God, and so far they may be called religious. 
But they can only be regarded as constituting a very subordinate 
element in Religion for two reasons. In the first place, religious 
belief is, according to the ordinary use of language, belief about 
1 e, g. in Seeley's Natural Religion. 

Chap, ii, x] IS RELIGION END OR MEANS? 297 

the ultimate nature of things, not about their detail. In the 
second place, there is a pretty general disposition to recognize 
that even belief about the ultimate nature of things is not 
religious except in so far as it has, directly or indirectly, 
some bearing upon practice. And, though the pursuit of Truth 
and Beauty are elements in the practical ideal, they are so 
only in a very subordinate degree for the great majority of 
men. Though for artists or scholars the pursuit of these things 
forms a large part of their duty (just as detailed knowledge 
of particular Sciences may have an important bearing upon the 
duties of particular professions), it is only that part of a man's 
belief and that kind of emotion which have some bearing 
upon human duty in general which we commonly regard as 
religious. Knowledge of the Universe in general and the emo- 
tions which its Beauty excites do, indeed, contribute something 
to our knowledge of God, and to the ideal feeling towards Him ; 
but, since such knowledge and feeling form only in a restricted 
degree the duty of every one, we shall not be far wrong in saying 
that the value of right religious belief and religious emotion lies 
chiefly in their tendency to promote right action. Itjs only_the 
kiruLoLtruth which is.capable-of affecting_practice, and thejkind 
of emotion which, conduces to right practice, that we can mturally 
g-to Religion. Such an account of the matter 

is no doubt vague, and anything but a vague definition would 
necessarily misrepresent the facts : for a man's Religion is not 
marked off by any sharp dividing line from other aspects of his 
life. Religious belief is one particular aspect of a man's total 
belief about the world ; religious emotion is not any one specific 
emotion, but a particular aspect of his emotional attitude 
towards the Universe or its ultimate source ; religious conduct 
is good conduct in general when looked upon as representing 
a right attitude of the will towards the ultimate source of 

If, therefore, we ask whether we are to regard Religion as merely 
a means to Morality, we shall answer that we shall do so only 
upon the condition that our idea of Morality is wide enough to 
include the duty of seeking for Truth, and of aiming at a right 
state of the emotions, for their own sakes. Truth and ideal 


emotion no doubt include much that has no direct and immediate 
bearing upon the duty of the individual man, except his duty 
towards the true and the beautiful. And, inasmuch as we do 
not recognize the pursuit of all kinds of truth and the cultivation 
of every kind of emotion as the duty of every man, we are not 
accustomed to include detailed knowledge of the world and the 
cultivation of every kind of emotion in our conception of Re- 
ligion, though no doubt the cultivation of these things forms the 
duty of some people. But we do hold that some knowledge 
about the world in general and some kind of emotion connected 
with that view are essential to the ideal life of every one : and it 
is just that knowledge and emotion which we regard as religious. 
Not every one need be or can be a Philosopher or an Artist, but 
everybody can be and ought to be religious. The objection 
to speaking of Religion as a mere means to Morality is that 
it seems to suggest an ideal of life in which Knowledge and 
Beauty have no place. On the other hand, the tendency to 
emphasize the ' religious ' character of mere intellectual insight 
and ordinary aesthetic emotion tends to an underestimate of the 
supreme value which the healthy moral consciousness accords to 
the rightly directed will. By general consent of those who take 
the religious view of life at all, Religion is the most important 
thing in the world. Any view of Religion, therefore, which 
encourages the disposition to give a higher place to any other 
aspect of life than that which is taken by the moral consciousness 
must be a false or one-sided view of it on the supposition which 
has been defended in these pages ; namely, that the moral gon- 
sciqusness is the organ of truth, and ih&jchiefjsource in a sense 
the sole source of religious .knowledge. Religion can only be 
tbffjgiost important thing inJifejf it includes Morality and the 
feelings, emotions, desires to which the moral consciousness 
attributes supreme value, and excludes those which the moral 
consciousness condemns. We are dealing here with a question 
of values, and if jmr moral cousck>usness_does_ not give, uajany 
true information-Jirbout valuer assuredly we can know nothing 
a^all about values : for the moral consciousness means that side 
of our consciousness which judges of values. 

Chap, ii, xi] FUNCTION OF WORSHIP 299 


We have been dealing so far with the question of the relation 
between Religion and Ethics in general. But the subject leads 
on to the discussion of a particular ethical question the nature 
of what are usually called, in a narrower sense, religious duties. 
Are worship and other religious observances of a similar character 
ends in themselves, or are they merely means to the performance 
of duty ? The answer is substantially implied in the view we 
have already taken of the relation between Religion and Ethics 
in general. If our conception of God be grounded upon our 
moral ideal, it is impossible to suppose that He has arbitrarily 
prescribed duties which have no bearing upon our relation to the 
highest moral ideal. To fear God, as the perfectly righteous 
Will, and to keep those commandments which necessarily flow 
from a perfectly righteous Will, must literally constitute the 
whole duty of man. We cannot after the fashion not so much 
of the older Christian thinkers as of the semi-deistie eighteenth- 
century divines speak as though, by a kind of arbitrary 
appendix to the moral law, a duty of going to Church had been 
imposed, as a sort of personal compliment to the Almighty, inde- 
pendently of its effects upon the mind and character of the wor- 
shipper. There is nothing substantially wrong in saying that 
UCJl, Observances P.onaisf.s solely in ftffapta 

jmtl Jiie* Only it must be remembered that the 
cultivation of right ideas about the world in general and a right 
emotional response to those ideas is a part of the true ideal 
of life. The outward acts of worship the saying or singing of 
words, the performance of ceremonies, the utterance of prayer 
or praise, the listening to exhortation or instruction can only 
be regarded as valuable because they express and tend to culti- 
vate a right state of the soul, but that right state of the soul is 
in a sense an end-in-itself . If the Will of God is that we should 
serve our brethren, the right state of the soul will be one which is 
dominated by that desire ; but inasmuch as a certain state of 
intellect and emotion as well as of will forms part of the true end 
for man, acts of worship which tend to promote true knowledge 
of God and a sense of the beauty of God's world will have a value 


of their own independently of the utility which they possess as 
a direct incitement and preparation for action. In the ideal love of 
God there are aesthetic and intellectual elements knowledge of 
God's nature, awe and reverence for the wonder of the world, 
admiration of its beauty, considered as a revelation of the Mind 
which makes it as well as the distinctly moral element (in the 
narrower sense of the word) which consists in reverence for the 
character of God. In so far as these things enter into Religion, 
there is a meaning in saying that Religion is an end-in-itself, 
and an end which does not consist exclusively in practical 
Morality ; and, in as far as worship is a means of cultivating 
such a religious state of mind, it may be regarded as more than 
a means to an end beyond itself. It becomes a kind of spiritual 
culture, which, like the more purely intellectual and aesthetic 
culture, is both a means and an end a means to the ideal life of 
the soul but also one of those activities in which that life con- 
sists. I need not repeat here what has been said about the 
duty of subordinating the pursuit of truth and of beauty to the 
true love of our fellow-men that is to say, the desire to promote 
for them also a good which includes the love of truth and of 
beauty. Only when thus subordinated do they form elements 
in the love of God, and become part of the end which worship 
promotes, and of which in a sense it forms a part. 

Socrates was wont to ask whether Virtue can be taught. 
Whatever exact sense be given to the word ' teach/ few reflect- 
ing persons would deny that it is possible for people to make 
themselves and one another more virtuous by systematic cultiva- 
tion of the ethical side of their nature. In the history of the 
past by far the most successful means of direct moral culture 
which the world has succeeded in inventing, among peoples 
which have risen to the level of ethical Religion, have been the 
societies called Churches and the institution called public Wor- 
ship in all its forms 1 . It is hardly possible to exaggerate the 

1 If we except the influence of Education, which, where it has possessed 
sufficient power to be compared in its influence on life with that of ethical 
Religion, has seldom been unconnected with a more directly religious 
influence. If it be suggested that private devotion is often a still more 
powerful influence than that of public Worship, I should admit the fact, 

Chap, ii, xi] WORSHIP AND THE CHURCH 301 

naiveti of the idea that individuals as a rule or societies in any 
case can give up this means of moral culture, and put nothing in 
its place, without a more or less serious descent to a lower moral 
level. We may smile at some of the Positivist imitations of 
Catholic worship, but the Positivists are assuredly right in 
holding that Morality requires the support of instruction and 
exhortation, of spiritual self -expression and recollection, of social 
observance and mutual encouragement. A comparative survey 
of the moral condition of different civilized countries at the 
present moment supplies strong empirical evidence in favour of 
such a view. Those who believe that the institutions of 
Church and Worship in their old forms have lost their efficacy, 
or that they are incapable of a reform which will restore it, are 
bound to give serious consideration to the question how they 
can be replaced. For those who do believe in their efficacy and 
value, there is no more pressing or more obvious duty than 
to consider how they may be made more efficient organs for the 
discharge of their absolutely indispensable social function. 

but should add that there is little reason to believe that on any large scale 
such habits of private devotion have survived, or ever will survive, the entire 
desuetude of public Worship. Just as the internal Conscience is only 
created and educated by a powerful * external Conscience, 1 so private 
Religion is created and educated by the external manifestations, and social 
organization, of Religion. 


IN dealing with the metaphysical postulates or presuppositions 
of Morality, we came to the conclusion that there can be no 
Morality unless our theory of the Universe is such that the 
acts of the individual can in some real sense be ascribed to the 
self. But as to the exact sense in which these acts are to be so 
ascribed, nothing has yet been determined. A full discussion 
of the problem usually known as that of Free-will belongs, in 
my opinion, rather to a general system of Metaphysic than to 
a treatise on Ethics. Yet the idea of Free-will is, or has been 
supposed to be, so intimately connected with our ultimate moral 
ideas that the Moral Philosopher must at least give some account 
of his own attitude towards it, although it may be an attitude 
which could only be adequately justified by a complete exposition 
of his theory of the Universe. 

What then is the question of Free-will? There can be no 
doubt that the plain man, prior to reflection, does habitually 
assume that his actions are not the necessary results of preceding 
actions or of anything else in the Universe before those acts 
took place ; that no knowledge of his previous actions, or even 
of his previous character at least of his original character 
before it was gradually moulded by his own acts of voluntary 
choice could possibly enable any one else, or even himself, to 
predict with certainty how he would act in any given com- 
plication of circumstances. When he looks back upon past 
misdoing, he declares that that misdoing is something which 
need not have occurred. No matter what he was or what he did 
before that act, no matter what original nature or character he 
brought with him into the world, all else up to that moment 
might have been the same, and yet that act might have remained 

Chap, iii, i] STATEMENT OF PROBLEM 303 

undone. If a small amount of reflection will induce some 
hesitation as to the unconsidered or impulsive acts which seem 
traceable to habit formed, as he may still be disposed to con- 
tend, by previous acts of free and undetermined choice he will 
at least insist that acts of deliberate and reflective choice between 
alternatives of real moral significance are strictly undetermined 
and essentially unpredictable, at all events by any intelligence 
which can only arrive at a knowledge of the future by inference 
from the past and the present. This is what the plain man 
understands by freedom of the will : and there are Philosophers 
who declare that the plain man is right, and are ready even to 
follow him into his further assertion that, if Free-will in this 
sense did not exist, Morality would lose all its value, its meaning, 
its very existence. On the other hand, it is maintained by the 
Determinist that actions are the necessary results of the man's 
original nature or constitution, as modified by the whole series 
of influences, social and physical, which have acted upon him 
from the moment of birth up to the moment of action. Actions 
are the necessary result of original character and environment. 
Original character and environment being the same, the act 
could not have been different. Given an adequate knowledge of 
both, the act could always have been predicted. An easy way 
of realizing the problem, the nature of which is frequently 
misconceived, and that by no means only by beginners in 
Philosophy, is to suppose (per impossible no doubt) two twin 
brothers endowed originally with absolutely identical natures, 
and exposed from the moment of birth to exactly the sameljocial 
and other influences. At the age of twenty, according to the 
Determinist theory, their characters would be precisely the same, 
and in any given circumstances they would act in precisely the 
same way : according to the libertarian view one of them might 
have become a saint, and the other a scoundrel. 

We may assume for the present that the question of Free-will 
or Determinism turns upon this question of predictability, though 
hereafter some qualification of this assumption may be required. 
It must not, indeed, be supposed (as is often done in popular 
argument on both sides) that the Determinist imagines that an 
adequate knowledge of psychological or sociological law would 

304 FREE-WILL [Book III 

enable him to predict a man's future conduct from his past 
actions. Whatever we understand by character, and however 
we envisage its relation to brain and nervous system, no man's 
character is fully expressed by his actual conduct in the past. 
Character must always include undeveloped possibilities. The 
response which a character will make to a new stimulus, or even 
to the repetition of an old stimulus l , can never be inferred with 
absolute certainty from the response it has made to previous 
stimuli. Nor need a sudden alteration in a man's habitual 
conduct necessarily imply that some fresh and unusual external 
influence has been brought to bear upon him. For a man's 
character may be such as to react in one way to a given stimulus 
ninety-nine times, and in a different way to the hundredth, just 
because it is the hundredth. A man may be so constituted as to 
listen unmoved to a thousand sermons, and yet to have his whole 
life altered by the thousand and first not essentially different 
in its general character from the former ; while another, whose 
outer and even inner life has been to all appearance previously 
similar, may remain equally inaccessible to any number of such 
appeals. A more frequent experience is the abandonment of 
a mode of life simply because a certain experience of it has 
proved its unsatisfactory character. There is, therefore, no 
ground for the idea often suggested both by supporters and 
opponents that Determinism is inconsistent with conversion or 
change of character, or even that such change can only take 
place in consequence of some palpably new feature in the 
external environment. Change of character, whether gradual or 
sudden, is as easily explainable on Determinist grounds as con- 
tinued identity of character. It is not only the outward behaviour 
that may change, but the character also in the sense in which 
we are accustomed to use that word in ordinary life or ethical 
discussion though doubtless some characteristics of the man 
must remain even after the most startling of such changes if he 

1 Of course the repetition is by itself a new feature in the environment. 
It may very plausibly be suggested that the earlier experiences have already 
modified the character or (as modern Psychologists say) the ' sub-conscious 
self, 1 but these effects may not have risen above the ' threshold of Conscious- 
ness.* This principle has been used by Professor James in his Varieties of 
Religious Experience to explain the phenomena of religious conversion. 


is to remain the same man. Not only his acts, but his motives, 
his emotions, his principles of action may become quite different 
from what they were before the hitherto latent capacity of his 
nature was called into activity. Of course, if by ' character ' we 
choose to understand the whole of man's capacities for reacting 
to different stimuli *, the original man with all his possibilities, 
then it must be admitted that on Determinist principles character 
is unchangeable. But this is not what we mean by ' character ' 
in ordinary ethical judgements. To maintain that a man 
gradually or suddenly ' converted ' is still a bad man because, 
but for some change in his circumstances, he would still have 
been a bad man, is to confound character with some ultimate 
psychological or metaphysical ground or basis or source of 
' character/ true or false. It would be better to say that the 
' self ' remains the same identical through differences, the same 
and yet not the same though character may change. From the 
point of view of Ethics real change of character is undoubtedly 
a fact of experience one of the facts which each side in the 
controversy must take as data for the discussion. It is only 
a very crude Determinism which denies this, and only a very 
crude or unfair Indeterminist who can suppose that his opponent 
is logically bound to deny it. 

Another unfair mode of statement often adopted by Deter- 
minists is to accuse their opponents of admitting the possibility 
of ' unmotived willing. 5 The Indeterminist, if he knows how tc 
do justice to his own case, admits that action is always inspired 
by motives. But it must be conceded on all hands that the 
' motive ' cannot be identified with some factor in the external 
environment taken by itself, or even with some imagined object 
of desire as it would be apart from the individual's reaction 
upon it. It is unquestionable, not only that in the same external 
environment two different men will act very differently, but that 
the same imagined pleasure or pain 2 , the same anticipated 

1 The change of stimulus need not always be intellectual, as Schopenhauer 
assumes when he says * Repentance never proceeds from a change of the will 
(which is impossible), but from a change of knowledge ' (The Wortd as Will 
and Idea, Eng. Trans., I. p. 382). 

9 It might no doubt be maintained that in strictness it never is the same : 
it is made different in the two cases by the difference of the psychical context 


306 FREE-WILL [Book III 

personal experience or external event, will call forth a very 
different response in different individuals. Both sides must 
admit that conscious and deliberate action (we may for con- 
venience here ignore all other kinds of human behaviour) is 
always instigated by a desire : nor ought there to be any hesita- 
tion on either side to admit that it is always the strongest desire 
that determines action. It need not be the desire which seemed 
strongest to the man at the moment before he acted ; but, when 
he has acted, that fact shows that the desire which prevailed was 
the strongest. We have no criterion for estimating the relative 
strength of conflicting desires except the influence which they 
exercise upon action. But unquestionably the relative strength 
of the desire is not due to anything in the desired object (as it 
is when taken apart from the consciousness of the individual), 
but to something in the man himself. The question about which 
the Determinist and the Indeterminist are at issue is precisely 
this : ' What is it that makes one desired object appeal more 
strongly to one man than it does to another ? ' The man always 
acts in obedience to the strongest motive, but the question remains : 
1 What is it that determines the greater strength of one desire 
as compared with another in different individuals ? ' ' Clearly 
something in the man himself/ both sides will reply. But to the 
Determinist that ' something in the man ' must mean ' something 
in the man as he was at the moment before the alternative was 
presented something itself the result of his original constitution 
(material or spiritual) as he was at the moment of birth together 
with the whole environment of his life up to the moment of 
action/ To the Indeterminist it will mean * something which 
came into existence at that instant, which had never been in 
existence before, which was not the necessary result of anything 
that had been in existence before, which could not be inferred 
by any sagacity from anything that was in the world up to that 
moment, an absolutely new creation/ The action on this view is 
due to the man certainly, but not simply to the man as he is 
born, or even the man as he has made himself by previous acts 

in which it stands in the two cases. This is the same thing as saying that 
a particular * object of desire ' has no existence which is independent of the 
whole personality of the desiring subject. 


of choice, but to the man as he makes himself at that minute. 
It is this power of making himself anew by successive acts, 
unfettered even by his previous self, which more than aught else 
constitutes him (according to the lQ(J^tgiBflainist) a moral being. 
The acts flow from the self, but the self is a self-creative self. 
Whether such a conception is ultimately intelligible, we shall 
have hereafter to examine. But that is the fairest way of 
presenting the Indeterminist case. 

The case has so far been stated as though the Libertarian 
maintained that every act at least every act of deliberate and 
reflective choice between alternatives morally significant were 
wholly uninfluenced either by original character, by environ- 
ment, or by previous acts of free choice that every such act 
is undetermined; and equally undetermined. A position so 
obviously inconsistent with the most familiar experience has 
never perhaps been deliberately maintained by any human 
being, but it must be confessed that till very recently advocates 
of Indetermmism have taken little pains to protect themselves 
against such a travesty of their position. A moment's reflection 
will be enough to show that such a contention would amount to 
the denial that there is such a thing as character, that there is 
any permanence or continuity at all about the self to which 
action is referred. All that the Libertarian is bound to maintain 
is that these acts of undetermined choice constitute one of the 
factors which determine the character of the man's life, a factor 
whose moral significance from the Indeterminist point of view 
need not be diminished even if it were admitted that externally 
considered it is the smallest of these factors. Ninety-nine 
hundredths (so to speak) of a man's life might be due to 
heredity, education, environment, and original constitution ; but 
provided there were a hundredth part referable only to undeter- 
mined acts of choice, that would be enough to satisfy the 
postulate of Freedom. On this view it would be that hundredth 
p ar t some difference scarcely visible to superficial observation, 
a little more or a little less of kindliness or family affection in the 
man whom circumstances have turned into an habitual criminal, 
a little more or less conscientiousness and self-denial in the 
man whom circumstances have made respectable that stamps 

x a 

308 FREE-WILL [Book III 

him as morally good or bad in the true ethical sense, or at least 
in the truest sense, of those words. This point of view was once 
paradoxically expressed by an able advocate of Indeterminism 
the late Professor Chandler of Oxford when he said that it 
was enough that one act of a man's life should be free. But in 
truth it is not necessary that even an isolated act should be 
referable wholly to the free will. It would be enough that it 
should enter as a factor into the determination of a man's acts or 
some of them, that a man's acts and matured character should 
be referable not to two factors but to three birth-character, 
environment, undetermined choice. 

Much confusion has been caused in this matter by the use 
of the term * Freedom ' in a variety of senses which are not 
always clearly distinguished from one another by those who use 
them. In particular the word Freedom has been employed in 
the following three sharply distinguishable senses : 

(i) Sometimes it means that an act is one done in obedience to 
Reason or to the higher self : because only in such acts is the 
agent conscious of no discord between the higher and lower self, 
because only then is the man's deliberate conviction of what is 
highest and best for him not dominated and controlled by passing 
desires, capricious lusts, and fleeting passions. In this sense it 
is clear that good acts alone are free. The idea that goodness or 
the service of God is ' perfect freedom ' is from a practical point 
of view an extremely valuable and stimulating idea. But it 
obviously involves a metaphor, and its introduction into the 
controversy between Determinism and its opposite has led to 
endless confusion. The idea is one which, in works of technical 
Ethics at least, had better be expressed in some other way *. 

1 This usage is in modern times due to the example of Kant, who regarded 
every good act as motived by respect for the Moral Law and so as determined 
by pure Practical Reason ; but, since at the same time that act qua event 
was a link in a series of causally inter-connected phenomena, it was really, 
according to him, not the particular act but the whole series that was 
determined by a single act of timeless, undetermined choice. In supposing 
that a man determines his own character by an act of timeless choice, Kant 
was an Indeterminist. His followers have mostly followed more or less 
closely his use of the term * free ' in the sense of ' rationally determined,' 
while dropping the Indeterminist side of his doctrine. Kant's position 

Chap. iii,i] SENSES OF FREEDOM 309 

(3) Good and bad acts alike may be regarded as free by all 
who recognize a difference between mechanical causality and 
the causality of a permanent spiritual self. In this sense 
Freedom implies the power of self-determination, but does not 
necessarily involve the existence of undetermined beginnings in 
the stream of volitions which make up a man's inner life. 
That Freedom in this sense is an absolutely essential postulate 
of Morality, I have already insisted in the chapter on 'Meta- 
physic and Morality/ 

(3) Freedom may be used to imply a power of absolutely 
undetermined choice in the self a power of originating acts 
which have absolutely no connexion with or relation to the self 
as it was before the act. 

It is of extreme importance to distinguish the kind of Deter- 
minism which recognizes the existence of a spiritual self and 
refers human actions to the character of that self from the 
mechanical Necessarianism which regards actions as caused by 
one another, or by the physical events of which what we call 
' actions ' are the physical concomitants. But the ambiguous 
use of the terms ' free ' and * freedom ' has been responsible for vast 
confusion. Many writers have supposed themsel ves to be defending 

involves the difficulty of applying the category of Causality to something 
which has no beginning. That which has no beginning cannot be caused 
by itself or anything else : it can only be uncaused. The only intelligible 
sense which can be given to the idea of ' noumenal freedom ' is to interpret 
it as meaning that the individual is uncreated, and either ' out of time ' or 
4 pre-existent.' But there seems to be no evidence that that is what 
Kant intended by it. He probably meant merely that the timeless self 
is the cause of the series of acts in time. How there can be a timeless 
individual self which is not also uncreated he did not ask himself. 
Bad acts were to Kant apparently free in the sense that the rational 
self could have interfered with the causally determined series of natural 
events in time, but left them to be determined by motives of pleasure 
and pain, which Kant always assumed to be the only possible motive of 
non-moral or immoral acts, and to be of a purely ' natural ' character 
just like cases of mechanical or physical causality. But the dis- 
tinction between the first and second senses of the term 'free' is never 
clearly stated by Kant or by most of his followers. Leibniz has also added 
much to the confusion by trying to persuade other people, and perhaps 
himself, that he was an Indeterminist when most of his arguments only go 
to establish freedom in the second of the senses distinguished in the text. 

3io FREE-WILL [Book III 

Indeterminism when they were really Determinists themselves in 
the sense of Self-Determinism. Still more have been so under- 
stood by readers not unwilling to be deceived. St. Thomas 
Aquinas, and Hegel, and English Idealists like Green have 
often been taken for Indeterminists or defenders of Free-will in 
the popular sense. The materialistic, hedonistic, and other mis- 
leading associations which have gathered around the word 
' Necessity ' certainly justify the use of the word Freedom for 
any doctrine which allows that the actions are really determined 
by a spiritual self capable of being influenced by ethical, as 
opposed to purely hedonistic, motives. Only, those who avail 
themselves of this usage should make perfectly plain the sense 
in which they do so. I shall myself claim the right of using the 
word ' Freedom ' to include belief in ' Self-determination ' in 
a sense which is not inconsistent with one kind of Determinism : 
but with a view of avoiding ambiguity I shall usually speak 
of the creed which denies Determinism altogether as * Indeter- 
minism/ The word Libertarianism is also so definitely associated 
with Free-will in the indeterministic or popular sense that it had 
better be allowed to remain synonymous with Indeterminism, 
even by those who give a wider significance to the term 
' free/ 


Having thus tried to make plain the nature of the question, 
I shall proceed to glance at the arguments used on both sides. 
At different periods in the history of thought different lines 
of argument have played the largest part in the controversy. 
Putting aside the ancient world, which, even in the Stoic- 
epicurean period, was, perhaps, hardly alive to the real difficulties 
of the problem, we may say that the controversy has passed 
through three stages. In the earlier stage it was primarily 
a theological controversy: the difficulty was to reconcile the 
Freedom which Morality prima facie seemed to require with 
the Omnipotence and Omniscience of God: and at this stage 
it may be observed that it was generally the more emancipated 
or Humanist thinkers who defended the cause of Freedom, while 
it was the more enthusiastic representatives of authoritative 


Religion who took the deterministic side. The philosophically 
educated Greek Fathers were on the side of Liberty l : the half- 
cultured Africans and other Westerns on the side of Predestina- 
tion. Si Thomas in a slightly disguised form, Wycliffe and 
Huss avowedly, were Determinists of the Self-determinist type : 
the critical and sceptical Occam was a Libertarian. Luther and 
the Reformation Theologians were Predestinarians : Erasmus 
and the champions of Humanism were Indeterminists. In the 
^concLstage of the controversy the arena was chiefly meta- 
physical. The difficulty was to reconcile moral Freedom with 
the idea of Causality and the universality of Law. From the 
time of Hobbes it may broadly be said (subject no doubt to 
many exceptions and reservations) that the sceptical intellect has 
been on the side of Determinism, while the champions of Re- 
ligion and Morality have usually been the upholders of Inde- 
terminism. If among the Philosophers as many great names 
can be claimed for some form of Indeterminism as for Deter- 
minism, their advocacy has been for the most part based wholly 
and avowedly upon ethical grounds. In recent .tiroes, while the 
old difficulties continue to play their part in the controversy, 
the most powerful impulse towards the deterministic mode of 
thought has been derived not so much from a priori meta- 
physical difficulties as from empirical considerations from the 
discovery of the close connexion between capacity and tempera- 
ment on the one hand and the structure of brain and nervous 
system on the other, from the emphasis which modern Evolu- 
tionism has given to the always familiar influence of heredity, 
from the constancy of statistics, and in general the more vivid 
appreciation of the intimate relation in which individual conduct 
stands to social environment. 

I will postpone for the moment any further exposition of the 
speculative difficulties (which perhaps after all remain the most 
formidable), but will add for the benefit of readers who may be 
very unfamiliar with the controversy a few words as to the way in 
which these empirical considerations have tended to bring about 
a state of things in which, if common sense has not given up its 

1 Only later Greek Philosophy and Theology invented a word for * free- 
will 'an idea which Aristotle never succeeded in expressing a 

312 FREE-WILL [Book III 

instinctive Indeterminism, the prevailing tendency both of Science 
and Philosophy is towards the deterministic view of the question, 
(i) Without exaggerating the extent of our knowledge as 
to the relation between mind and brain, it is a well-ascertained 
fact that there is some correspondence between the shape, struc- 
ture, or quality of the brain and nervous system on the one hand 
and the character and conduct of the man on the other. With 
regard to purely intellectual characteristics this will hardly 
be disputed by any one, and it can hardly be denied that this is 
to some extent the case with moral characteristics also. Southern 
Italians and Spaniards are usually more irascible, emotional, 
and impetuous than Englishmen or Scandinavians, not because 
they all happen to use their freedom in that way, but because 
they are born with a different cerebral and nervous constitution. 
It will be said (and justly), that we have to do here with the 
emotional or pathological constitution of different individuals, and 
not with their moral character proper with the impulses which 
excite them to good actions or bad and not with their actual 
conduct. But we observe also that on the average the resulting 
conduct of the respective races is what might be expected from 
this difference in their emotional tendencies, and it is easy to 
infer that further knowledge of such physiological facts might 
explain the actual volitions as well as the impulses against which 
the inmost self of each individual reacts the extent to which he 
yields to his good or bad impulses as well as the nature of those 
impulses themselves. As the physical difference between races 
becomes wider, moral differences widen also, We should be 
almost as surprised to find the moral qualities of a Kant or 
a Gladstone as we should be to find the intellectual powers of such 
men in combination with the physical characteristics of a Toda. 
And when we turn to the widest moral differences between men of 
the same race, the same correspondence between character and 
physique is traceable to a greater or less extent. -No one now 
doubts that insanity is due to a disease or original malformation 
of the brain and nervous system a disease sometimes engendered, 
and to some extent curable, by purely spiritual influences, but 
nevertheless a physical disease when once produced, and one often 
traceable to purely physical causes. And insanity reveals itself 


in erratic morality as well as in erroneous judgements about 
matters of fact. The influence of brain upon character is seen 
most conspicuously in those cases where a physical injury 
a blow on the head or a sunstroke is followed by violent or 
criminal behaviour in persons of previously irreproachable char- 
acter. It is probable that Lornbroso and his followers have 
failed to establish their theory of a ' criminal type ' of head ; 
there is, at least, much exaggeration about the definiteness and 
certainty of their results : but it cannot be denied that a majority 
of criminals at least, criminals of the kind who usually find 
their way to penal servitude are persons of exceedingly low 
mental calibre with a low facial angle and the caste of features 
which commonly accompanies very low mental development. In 
these exceptional and abnormal instances the correspondence 
between character and constitution becomes so glaring that it is 
hardly possible to avoid the recognition of some causal con- 
nexion in that sense of the word in which we usually speak 
of causal connexion in the physical Sciences l : and it is at least 
plausible to argue that further knowledge would reveal a like 
correspondence in the case of those less glaring differences of 
character and conduct which the Libertarian refers to the free 
will of the agent. It must be remembered, indeed, that all this 
evidence is quite inadequate to prove that purely physical 
characteristics are the sole cause of intellectual and moral 
characteristics, but it tends to show that these physical charac- 
teristics must be included among the antecedents of human 
actions, and to suggest that, if not wholly determined by physical 
causes, they are at least determined by causes. 

(3) There are the familiar facts of heredity, emphasized by 
modern biological investigation, but not really much better known 

1 We have no experience of brain by itself: it is always brain plus 
something which is not brain with which we have to do, and it must, of 
course, be remembered that when he treats brain as a cause, the Idealist 
does so only in a relative and not an ultimate sense, since the brain itself 
exists only for mind. But the question of the relation between mind and 
body does not fall within our subject. No view of it is inconsistent with 
the position taken up in this chapter provided that it admits (i) the real 
causality of the individual self, (2) the spiritual character of Ultimate 

3 " 4 FREE-WILL [Book III 

to us than to those who lived before Darwinism and the ideas 
associated with it were dreamed of. The hastiest empirical 
observation taught men that people had a tendency to resemble 
not only in their mental but in their moral characteristics one 
or both of their parents : 

Fortes creantur fortibus et bonis : 
est in iuvencis, est in equis patrum 
virtus, neque imbellem feroces 
progenerant aquilae columbam 1 . 

Observation a little more extended and careful taught them 
that, even when there is a glaring contrast between child and 
both parents, a resemblance may often be traced between the 
character of the child and some remoter ancestor or collateral 
relative. The observation of this familiar fact is by itself fatal 
to the crude Libertarianism (if such has ever really been main- 
tained) which represents each act of every individual as wholly 
and equally due to the use which he makes of his free will ; and 
it is at least plausible here again to use the argument from 
analogy, and to contend that, had we full and adequate know- 
ledge of the causes which determine the course of embryonic 
development, we should be able to account for the original con- 
stitution with which a man is born into the world in those cases 
in which the earliest manifestations of character are prima facie 
least like what we should have expected as easily as we do 
in those cases in which they most obviously recall the parental 
type. Just as the generalizations which have enabled meteor- 
ologists to make rough predictions with regard to the weather 
have, in spite of many inaccuracies and some total mistakes, 
convinced the general public that there is such a Science as 
Meteorology, so it may be contended that a man's birth-character 
could with adequate knowledge of data and laws be predicted 
with as much certainty as the weather : and that by the birth- 
character is explainable everything in the man's conduct that is 
not due to his social and other environment. 

(3) There is the argument from statistics. Though we can 
seldom obtain sufficient knowledge of the individual's character 
to enable us to predict with great certainty and accuracy how 

1 Horace, Odes iv. 4. 2Q-32. 


he will act, we are in many cases able to foretell the action 
of masses of men not only with certainty but with a high degree 
of quantitative accuracy. We can be tolerably sure, indeed, 
that some individuals will be late for dinner, but we cannot say 
to a minute or two how much, and such calculations are always 
liable to be upset by disturbing causes : the most unpunctual of 
men may be in time when his watch goes wrong. But with 
masses of men it is otherwise ; we are able by the examination 
of the statistics to predict with a very small margin of error 
how many people in London will commit suicide in a year. 
If one country shows a higher rate of suicide than another, 
we seek to account for it by something in its social conditions, as 
for instance by its Religion being Protestant rather than Roman 
Catholic, or by the cruelties connected with its system of com- 
pulsory military service, or by the prevalence of Landlordism 
instead of peasant Proprietorship. And fluctuations in the 
statistics we try to account for in a similar way. Within small 
areas or periods the fluctuations are of course considerable. 
They become smaller as we extend our view to larger areas 
of time and place. Or, if a sudden variation occurs, the instinct 
of every man be he Determinist or Libertarian is to account 
for it by some change in the environment ; and in many cases 
we can so account for the sudden or gradual variations of 
statistics of this kind with at least as much success as we meet 
with in the attempt to account for variations in the statistics of 
death or disease, which everybody admits to be due to fixed, 
ascertainable, and calculable causes l . If we find a sudden increase 
in the number of offences punishable on summary conviction at 
a particular date, we ask ourselves whether any legislative or 
social change took place at the time, and we find it in the growth 
of bicycling and the consequent necessity for the prosecution 
of highly respectable persons for riding upon footpaths. If 
the statistics of desertion in the English Army show a rapid 
and startling change in a certain year, we are not satisfied with 
accounting for it by a freak of Free-will, and find it more satis- 

1 Even Insurance statistics involve the assumption that we can to a large 
extent predict human conduct. An uncaused outbreak of murder on a large 
scale might involve the winding-up of the safest company in Europe. 

316 FREE-WILL [Book III 

factory to connect it with some change in the manner of dealing 
with such offences or with the state of the labour market. Moral 
statistics in short statistics of crime or pauperism for instance 
are almost as constant as vital statistics. The conduct of men in 
masses can be predicted with more certainty than the weather. 
How can this fact, it may be asked, be reconciled with the 
hypothesis of Indeterminism ? Upon that hypothesis, it may 
be urged, we ought to regard it as quite conceivable that in one 
year vast numbers should freely will to commit larceny, in the 
next year none at all. 

It may be suggested that on the doctrine of probabilities the 
number of undetermined bad volitions might be supposed, in 
the absence of disturbing circumstances, on an average to bear 
about the same proportion to the number of undetermined good 
ones, though it will always be uncertain upon which particular 
persons it falls to keep up the average. But the doctrine of 
probabilities is itself based upon degrees in our knowledge 
of causes; and the question arises whether, in regard to any 
class of phenomena not governed by causes ! , we should have 
any rational ground for expecting such a constancy of averages. 
The idea of pure chance, understood as a matter of objective fact, 
is open to exactly the same difficulties as the idea of undeter- 
mined volition. To refer the constancy of statistics to the opera- 
tion of chance is therefore no explanation of their approximate 
constancy. It is quite true that the explanation of moral statistics 
by social causes taken in connexion with the original con- 
stitution of individuals is not made out with sufficient complete- 
ness to constitute positive proof ; but it can hardly be denied 

1 I do not identify the law of Causality with the law of the Uniformity of 
Nature. But our belief in the universal prevalence of Uniformity within 
the mechanical sphere is itself based upon a probable inference as to the 
modus operandi of the ultimate Cause which logically presupposes that the 
events must have some Cause. We assume a priori that events must have 
some cause : we learn by experience that the cause is one which operates 
within a certain sphere in accordance with a mechanical * uniformity of 
succession,* and even in the biological sphere with a certain regularity 
which, however, cannot be reduced to a mechanical 'uniformity of suc- 
cession.' For further explanation of my meaning I may refer to Mr. R. B. 
Haldane's Pathway to Reality, Vol. I, p. 240 sq., and Dr. J. S. Haldane's two 
Guy's Hospital lectures on Life and Mechanism. 


that the whole of our information points to the conclusion that 
with complete knowledge we should be able to see an exact 
correspondence as clearly as we now see a rough correspondence. 
In the present state of our knowledge it might safely be 
affirmed that, while unreflective common sense may retain its 
instinctive Indeterminism, such a theory would never even 
occur to a scientifically trained mind acquainted with such 
facts as I have mentioned and accustomed to deal with social 
and psychological phenomena, unless it were in the first instance 
suggested by ethical or religious considerations. The most im- 
portant question to be discussed is, therefore, the question whether 
any demand of the moral and religious consciousness really 
necessitates, or even strongly recommends, the theory of Indeter- 
minism. Our knowledge of the empirical facts is far too small 
to enable us to say that, if it were so recommended, the hypothesis 
would be indefensible. If we could not explain or justify the 
facts of our moral consciousness without this hypothesis, we 
should have as good a right to assume Indeterminism as we 
have to accept any other postulate which is required for the 
rational interpretation of our experience. The facts of our 
moral consciousness are as certain as any other facts, and logical 
inferences from or implications of those facts have as good a right 
to be believed as any isolated fact accessible to immediate ex- 
perience. There would still remain, indeed, the speculative 
question which we have hitherto waived whether the very 
idea of undetermined choice is really thinkable ; but, if we found 
it impossible to understand or explain an important department 
of our thought without such an hypothesis, it might well be 
urged that any logical or metaphysical presuppositions which 
stand in the way of doing so would stand in need of re-examina- 
tion and revision. We might even feel driven to acquiesce for 
the nonce in an unresolvable contradiction between two sides 
or elements in our knowledge and experience. Such an admis- 
sion of irresolvable antinomies would be a far more rational 
proceeding than to dismiss as fictitious the intellectual implica- 
tions of one part of our experience because we cannot at present 
reconcile them with those of some other part, even without 
taking into consideration the greater importance for practical 

3 i8 FREE-WILL [Book III 

life of the moral as compared with the scientific side of our 
conscious life. The question before us is then this Does 
Morality postulate Indeterminism ? 


The best way of raising the question will be, I think, to state 
as clearly as possible the position of those who assert the 
necessity of Indeterminism for Morality in the most extreme 
form. They do not deny that men are born with natural 
tendencies to good or evil, or that such tendencies are modified 
by education and environment, physical and social. And these 
inborn or acquired tendencies exercise an influence upon their 
actual conduct. But, in pronouncing a man good or bad, we 
must, it is contended, make abstraction of all that is due either 
to original endowment or to subsequent environment. It is not 
these things that make a man good or bad, but only that portion 
of his actual conduct and character which can be traced to the 
use that he makes of his own free will. It is only that part of 
a man's conduct which (his original nature and all surrounding 
circumstances being the same) might still have been different, 
that stamps the man as good or bad in the true, moral sense of 
the word. No doubt a man who is born so that he cannot fail, 
with such and such a social environment, to turn out what is 
commonly called a good man, is a more desirable citizen, more 
useful to his fellows and more at peace with himself, than one 
so constituted as, under like circumstances, to turn out a ruffian : 
but, morally speaking, he is not one whit the better man. We 
may bestow upon him a utilitarian, a social, perhaps a kind of 
aesthetic approbation : but to strictly moral approbation he is no 
more entitled than a clock which keeps time or an animal whose 
physiological constitution forbids it to indulge in aggressive or 
predatory behaviour. It is not only that the man's actions are 
materially correct ; they may be done from the right motives 
from motives of humanity, of charity, of duty and yet they 
are morally worthless, so long as these sentiments are due to his 
original nature or his fortunate surroundings. It is not only, be 
it observed, the man of natural good tendencies who is pro- 
nounced to be destitute of moral worth if his actions are not 


free ; every moral system must recognize some difference (what 
difference will depend upon the system) between the man of 
natural good qualities and the man who is good on principle 
between (for instance) natural good nature and a hot temper 
duly controlled : and it may conceivably be contended that the 
latter represents the higher type of character. But this is not 
all. The extreme Libertarian is prepared to maintain not 
only that a man's natural sentiments, desires, inclinations may 
be of the best possible quality, but that his will may be steadily 
directed, in the presence of the fiercest temptations, towards the 
good for its own sake ; and yet that, if that will be itself the 
outcome of birth and education, it possesses no moral value 
whatever. It earns no merit ; and, according to this School, 
moral value and merit are synonymous terms. The determined 
saint is no better than the determined sinner. 

Now it will, I think, be easy to show that, stated in this extreme 
form, the Libertarian position is totally at variance with the deepest 
moral convictions and the clearest of moral intuitions. Granted, 
for the moment, that there is such a thing as undetermined choice, 
and that for certain purposes in order to pronounce our final 
judgement upon a man it may be necessary to take into con- 
sideration, not merely the character of his volitions but also the 
extent to which his will was undetermined ; yet it is certain that 
we do not attribute exclusive moral value to that part of a man's 
character which would have been the same, no matter what his 
original character and his subsequent environment. Supposing I 
meet with a man of whose antecedents I know nothing, but whom 
I find spending his life in the practice of every virtue under the sun. 
He not merely does virtuous actions, actions externally in accord- 
ance with the Moral Law, but he does them from the highest 
motives : he is conscientious,chari table, self -denying, free (quantum 
humanae potest fragilitati) from any vices that the most intimate 
acquaintance can discern. But one day he tells me his history. 
His father and mother belonged, it appears, to the salt of the 
earth : he can point back to a long line of equally exemplary 
ancestors ; no member of his family, for generations back, is 
known to have been selfish or unconscientious : he has enjoyed 
the best of educations, and been fortunate in his teachers, his 

320 FREE-WILL [Book III 

friends, and his professional associates. Now I do not deny 
that a knowledge of these facts may somewhat weaken my 
admiration for his character. They may suggest, not only that 
under less favourable circumstances he might have acted 
differently, but that his will is really not so strong as it appears 
to be : that he would not be able to resist stronger temptations 
than those which have fallen to his lot, and that a less ' sheltered ' 
life might even now produce a serious lowering of his moral 
level, and reveal the existence of faults hitherto unsuspected by 
himself or by others. But if I were sure that his will would 
now be proof against the strongest temptations, the mere know- 
ledge that, without that excellent ancestry and education, his 
will would have been different would produce surely not the 
smallest lowering of my moral esteem. A virtuous family 
commands my respect no less than a virtuous individual. 
Certainly, the Philosopher who proposes to base his Indeter- 
minism upon the spontaneous deliverances of the unsophisticated 
moral consciousness will find it difficult to support the contention 
that in the case contemplated our esteem would be turned into 
total indifference or contempt. Or take another case the case 
of ' conversion.' I have already protested against the notion 
that Determinism is inconsistent with change of character. As a 
matter of fact the greatest believers in conversion have been 
Determinists St. Augustine, Wycliffe, the Reformers (of every 
school), the Jansenists, the English Puritans l . There may indeed 
be cases of conversion, as I have already suggested, in which no 
great visible change of environment accounts for the moral revolu- 
tion. But that is not the common type. The change usually con- 
nects itself either with some striking event in the man's personal 
history an escape from great danger, an illness, or a bereave- 
ment, or, more commonly still, with the influence of another 
person brought to bear upon him through a sermon, a book, or 
private intercourse. Suppose then I meet with another char- 

1 The Methodist movement, or rather one half of it the section which 
followed Wesley and not Whitefield -was the first great religious revival 
that was based on a Libertarian Theology. Perhaps we ought to add that 
the Franciscan Theology, though its origin is later than the great missionary 
successes of the movement, was Libertarian. 


acter such a-s I have already contemplated, but find on enquiry 
that in this case the man has not always been so. He used to be 
a selfish and self-indulgent profligate, and (as he will tell you him- 
self) would doubtless have continued so but for the fact that on 
such an occasion he listened to the sermon of such and such 
a preacher, came into intimate relations with such and such a 
friend, or chanced to peruse such and such a book. Since then 
not merely his outward life but the inner life of his soul has 
been altogether different. Am I then, in estimating his real 
character, to make abstraction of all that has been due to that 
externally conditioned crisis in his life, and say that his true 
moral status is just what it would have been, had some accident 
stood in the way of his hearing the preacher or falling in with 
the friend or the book ? It is true no doubt that the fact that, 
when he does hear, he hearkens and heeds that the seed sown 
is not carried away by the fowls of the air or withered by the 
stony ground of his heart or choked by the growth of tares 
does show that even before that event he was not altogether the 
frivolous being that he seemed. There were potentialities of 
goodness in him already ; but there will be an end of all possi- 
bility (even for the profoundest insight) of classifying men into 
good and bad, better or worse, if possibilities are to be treated as 
of the same moral value as actualities. If that were so, what 
would be the use of preaching or other efforts to make men 
better ? If the possibilities are to be counted for righteousness, 
why try to develope them into actualities ? It may be admitted 
also, without any undue suspiciousness as to the value of religious 
conversion, that the tendencies which previous to the moral 
crisis were dominant and unchecked very often prove to have 
been less entirely eradicated than the stock phraseology of 
revivalist movements may sometimes suggest. In the language 
of a dogmatic formula the old * infection of nature doth remain, 
yea, in them that are regenerated,' and its influence may some- 
times be traced in altered forms throughout the man's subse- 
quent life. But the position that the true moral status of the 
man is really what to a discriminating moral vision it would 
have appeared to be, had his old and bad mode of life continued 
unaltered, is assuredly not one which can base itself upon the 


322 FREE-WILL [Book III 

ordinary judgements of mankind. The only really logical form 
of such extreme Indeterminism would carry with it (as it did 
avowedly for Kant) the startling consequence that no man can 
really be made better by the influence of another. A mode of 
thinking which compels us to deny the sanctity of St. Paul 
because it might never have existed but for the influence of 
Christ, of St. Augustine because it would not have existed but 
for St. Ambrose, of St. Francis because he was once a profligate, 
or of his own disciples because without him they would in all 
probability never have risen above the low average level of their 
contemporaries, is more flatly opposed to the deepest moral con- 
victions of mankind than the crudest and most mechanical 
theory of human conduct by which Determinism has ever been 

Equally startling deductions might be arrived at if we were 
to invert this line of argument, and to trace out the consequences 
of treating as really good all the people who under favourable 
collocations of circumstances might have become good. At that 
rate all the bad men who failed to become good, because the 
preacher who might have converted them did not happen to 
come their way, would have to be set down as paragons of 
Virtue. And on this mode of thinking the question might 
be raised where we are to discover men really bad. There are 
some personalities of such transcendent spiritual energy that it 
seems scarcely possible, given circumstances under which their 
influence could have a maximum play, for any human being 
altogether to resist that influence assuming that it was brought 
to bear upon them at a sufficiently early age and that there 
were no counteracting influences. Granted that there are a small 
minority on whom no good influence could have any effect, it 
must be remembered that present environment is not the only 
factor of which the view under examination would compel us to 
make abstraction. The influence of heredity must be eliminated 
also. And how many of the actually bad would have been bad 
if they had enjoyed the advantage not only of the education best 
calculated to develope their possibilities of good but also of the 
best possible parents and ancestors for many generations ? Even 
if there were any meaning in such a question, it is obvious that 


the enquiry into any particular person's * real character ' becomes 
one with which not only the most profound and trained insight 
of the 'disinterested spectator/ but even the most penetrating 
self-examination, is quite incapable of grappling. Indeed, if we 
push the argument far enough, we might even have to go the 
length of denying that the moral value of a man was greater 
than that of an animal in so far as his evolution from the animal 
condition was due to influences independent of his own undeter- 
mined choice. 

These considerations do not by themselves disprove Indeter- 
minisrn. But they do show, I submit, that Indeterminism of 
this extreme type can gain no support from the ' common-sense ' 
Morality to which it generally appeals. They do show that the 
element in a man's character and conduct which is due to 
undetermined choice (if any such element exists) cannot without 
paradox be regarded as the only element which possesses not 
merely value but that particular kind or degree of value which 
we are in the habit of bestowing upon a good character or 
a good will. Granted that an inmost kernel of undetermined 
choice exists, it is something which is wholly inaccessible to 
human observation. Granted that the significance of this fact 
be admitted, and the inference drawn that in the last resort we 
have no materials for a final and adequate pronouncement upon 
the total character of any man, still that is a very different thing 
from saying that those elements of character which are accessible 
to observation have no value at all in so far as they are due to 
anything else but this hypothetical element of undetermined 
choice, the existence of which in any particular person we have no 
data even for conjecturing. Such a contention would carry with 
it the consequence not only that our estimates of character our 
own or other people's are often erroneous and always inade- 
quate, but that they bear no relation whatever to the realities 
of the case. In venerating the saint, we may mistakenly be 
venerating a bad man to whom a good father and favourable 
circumstances may have given a benevolence and a self-denial 
which are morally worthless because ' determined/ In morally 
condemning a Caesar Borgia, we may be condemning actual 
bad tendencies which are no more deserving of moral censure 

Y 2 

324 FREE-WILL [Book III 

than physical disease, while all the time acts of Free-will 
sufficient under favourable circumstances to have made a 
Socrates or a St. Paul were wholly prevented from taking 
actual effect because the poor man chanced to be the illegiti- 
mate son of a Renaissance Pope, and to have breathed the most 
polluted moral atmosphere that social evolution has ever 
generated. If such extravagances are to be avoided, we must 
at the least admit that besides this inaccessible kernel of 
character the actual character and volitions of human beings, 
as they stand revealed directly to introspection or indirectly to 
observation, have a real value, and a very different value from 
that attributed to the hedonistic or other consequences which 
character and volition may produce for the persons themselves 
or for others. Granted that the undetermined choice may 
possess moral value it may be supreme and unique moral 
value it is not the only thing which possesses such value. We 
can no longer say that in a determined world there would be no 
such thing as value or moral value, and consequently no such 
thing as Morality. Granted the existence of some higher sphere 
of transcendental Morality for which Indeterminism may be 
a necessary postulate, we cannot say that without it our ordi- 
nary moral judgements would be destitute of all meaning and 

Now, if this much be admitted, it is obvious that the argument 
for Indeterminism as a postulate of Morality is at least very 
seriously weakened. The strength of the case for Indeterminism 
lies in its appeal to common sense : that case is therefore enor- 
mously weakened when it is found that its logical consequences 
are such as to shock common sense and that, to become capable of 
rational defence, it has to assume a form which common sense 
would not recognize. We have seen that, unless we are to 
substitute for the moral judgements of our ordinary moral 
consciousness a kind of moral judgement the very existence of 
which has. never been suspected except by a few Indeterminist 
Philosophers, we cannot say that Morality would be destroyed 
by the admission that this element of undetermined choice does 
not exist at all. Morality would still remain : our judgements 
of value would remain, and there would be no reason for denying 


their validity. We should retain our conception of * the good/ 
and should still ascribe a peculiar value to acts voluntarily 
directed towards the good. Morality would not be destroyed ; 
would it in any way be weakened ? The suggestion that it 
would, might mean one of two things : either it might mean 
that the validity of the Moral Law would be affected for the 
reflective consciousness, or that in practice a general conviction 
that Determinism is true would bring with it some weakening 
of the motives which work for Morality and deter from 

Let us assume then that we knew for certain Determinism 
to be true. Ought that logically to make, and would ifc practi- 
cally make, any difference to us? First, let us get rid of 
some misleading associations. In the first place, Determinism 
does not imply psychological Hedonism, though psychological 
Hedonism does imply Determinism. The 'motives' which 
determine conduct may be of the most unhedonistic or rational 
or spiritual character. It is a mistake to assume (with Kant) 
that, because a motive is ' pure ' a pure desire to obey the 
Moral Law the resulting act can be due to nothing but undeter- 
mined choice, or that because the act is determined its motive 
must be purely ' natural/ The fact that, with sufficient know- 
ledge of a man's character and of the spiritual dynamic possessed 
by a given sermon, we could predict that he would be con- 
verted by it, does not show that the operation of the sermon was 
due to self-interest. Secondly, Determinism, does not imply any 
particular theory as to the relations between mind and body. 
There can be no doubt that certain features of physical constitu- 
tion are among the causes or conditions which determine character 
and conduct, but these need not be the only ones. Prima facie, 
and without any attempt to offer a complete solution of the 
problem, the influence of mind upon body is at least as obvious 
a fact of experience as the influence of body upon mind. A blow 
on the head may be the new factor which turns a man of given 
physical and mental constitution into a criminal. But it is equally 
certain that a thought may cause blushing or death, that cheerful 
society aids digestion, and that elevating spiritual influences will 
alter the whole expression of a man's face. It is even possible 

326 FREE-WILL [Book III 

that there may be the same mental interaction or concomitance 
between the, at present, unconscious soul and physical facts even 
in embryonic life. But, whatever may be thought of such a 
suggestion, it is enough here to say that Determinism postulates 
nothing as to the nature of the ' original constitution ' which, in 
conjunction with environment, determines the bent of a man's 
character and actions. It merely asserts that, given a certain 
original constitution of mind and body, whatever is not due to 
the environment is due to that original constitution. And, 
thirdly, it must be remembered that in asserting that a man's 
acts are caused, we do not say that they are caused in the same 
way and sense in which mechanical events are caused by one 
another. It is totally misleading to assume that a man's acts in 
the present are determined by his past acts, just as the motions 
of a billiard-ball at a given moment are determined by its past 
movements. It may be true that rough predictions as to a man's 
future conduct may be made on the basis of past acts, but these 
past acts never reveal the whole of the man's character. The act 
is not caused by previous acts, but by the same self which caused 
the previous acts l . And the way in which a self causes is quite 
different from the way in which mechanical events cause one 
another. It is possible (and I for one should maintain) that even 
in mechanical action the real and ultimate cause of the event is 
not the previous event or any mysterious necessity of thought 
which requires that like physical antecedents should have like 
physical consequents, but the Will of God which within the 
region of Mechanics works invariably (we have every reason to 
believe) according to this law of uniform succession. But I am 
not writing a treatise on Causality, and it is enough to say that 
the causality of motives is in most important respects a very 
different thing from the causality which in the ordinary language 
of Physical Science is attributed to events. The self is not an 
event or a series of events. The desires, emotions, and other 

1 That the idea has arisen from a completely unjustified application to 
the relation between successive acts of the idea of mathematical necessity 
has been admirably shown by M. Bergson, Essai sur les immtdiates 
de la Conscience, p. 158 sq., though I cannot accept all his views which seem 
to involve actual Indetermmiflm. 


psychical influences which are said to move the self have no 
existence of their own apart from the self. The self is present 
in each of them, and makes them what they are. Moreover, 
even if we regard the desires or inclinations which successively 
enter into the consciousness of the self as causes which determine 
its successive volitions, these are not mere events which act on 
succeeding events as it were a tergo, but presented objects 
which influence the self after the manner of final causes. In 
Mechanics the present is determined by the past : in the region 
of human action it is in a sense the future which determines the 

It is true that for the future to determine the present, that 
future must become an idea in the present 1 . But the causality 
of ideas ideas inaccessible to psychical observation is a very 
different thing from the causality of physical events. And 
after all the idea does not produce the consequent by itself 
in isolation from the whole nature of the self for which it 
is an idea ; we say, no doubt, that the idea acts upon the will and 
thereby causes the resulting action, but it would be just as true 
to say that the will acts upon the idea. The act results not 

1 By this I do not mean to deny that in animal or even vegetable organisms, 
or again in unreflecting human behaviour, final causes may not operate with- 
out being present in consciousness. But this implies that there must already 
be a striving or tendency towards this end, even though it is not a conscious 
striving. The postulate of the ' Uniformity of Nature,' as we use it in the 
purely Physical Sciences, is precisely the assumption that we may exclude 
all conditions except antecedent physical conditions. A striving which is not 
yet revealed either in consciousness or in any physical change is, even more 
than a fact of consciousness, something very different from the ' conditions ' 
of which Physical Science takes account. I should venture to add further 
that, though this causality of ends should not be spoken of as something 
miraculous or outside the laws of nature (as long as we avoid the assump- 
tion that mechanical ' uniformity of succession ' is the only kind of natural 
law), the causality of an end not present to the individual consciousness 
seems to me ultimately intelligible only on the supposition that it is already 
present to the divine consciousness. The views on Causality with which I am 
most in sympathy are to be found in Professor James Ward's Naturalism and 
Agnosticism, especially I. p. 108 sq., II. 189 sq. See also Professor Taylor's 
Elements of Metaphysics, Book IV, chap, iv, and the works mentioned above, 
p. 316, note. I have dealt with the subject somewhat more at length in an 
Address to the Aristotelian Society on * Causality and the Principles of 
Historical Evidence' (1906). 

328 FREE-WILL [Book III 

merely from the idea which occupied the mind the moment 
before, but from the whole state of the man, and the man is not 
merely a knowing and feeling but a striving being l . Much of 
the dislike commonly felt for deterministic modes of thought 
arises from the use by Determinists of expressions which suggest 
that the man himself is simply the theatre upon which a certain 
action and reaction between ideas take place, an action and 
reaction of which he the man himself is the passive victim. 
But Determinism is not at all bound up with the mode of 
thought which denies real causality or activity to the self : on the 
contrary some Determinists would contend that there is no real 
causality in anything but a self or a spirit, and that when we 
say that this or that physical or psychical event causes another 
such event, we are really describing merely the mode or order in 
which some conscious will acts; so that, when such events are not 
determined by some human or similarly limited will, they must 
be really willed by God. But confining ourselves to the case of 
the human will, we may say that the very essence of the Self- 
determinist's case is that it is the real nature of the self (as modified 
by its environment) which determines of what sort its successive 
acts shall be. It is not because I have acted in a certain way in the 
past that I am necessitated to act in a certain way in the future, but 
because I am at this moment the sort of spiritual being to whom 
such and such an enjoyment, such and such a reform in my 
society, such and such a moral ideal presents itself as attractive. 
Now let us assume that we have accepted Determinism in the 
' Self-determinist ' sense : what ethical consequences will such an 
acceptance involve ? It will not destroy the meaning or validity 
of my judgements of value : that is a suggestion which we have 
already dismissed. Voluntary acts (in any sense of ' voluntary ') 
are not the only things which possess value. Hurricanes and 

1 ' C'est done une psychologic grossiere, dupe du langage, que celle qui 
nous xnontre I'S-me determinee par une sympathie, une aversion ou une 
haine, comme par autant de forces qui pesent sur elle. Ces sentiments, 
pourvu qu'ils aient atteint une profondeur suffisante, represented chacun 
r&me entiere, en ce sens que tout le contenu de I'&me se reflete en chacun 
d'eux. Dire que Tame se determine sous 1'influence de Tun quelconque de 
ces sentiments, c'est done reconnaitre qu'elle se determine elle-meine.' 
Bergson, lib. cit., p. 126. 

Chap, iii, iii] IS DETERMINISM IMMORAL? 329 

eruptions are bad that is to say, the suffering they cause in 
conscious beings is bad ; and it is not the less bad because it is 
not due to human volition. Knowledge is good and a very much 
better thing than sensual pleasure, though nobody asserts that 
stupidity is due to Free-will or denies that ignorance is due to 
many causes besides lack of goodwill. And as knowledge has 
a higher value than mere pleasure, so a benevolent act or 
a benevolent character has a higher value still. That value of 
act or character is no doubt dependent on the fact that the 
particular act is willed, and character means the whole sum of 
psychical forces which produces a tendency to voluntary action 
of a certain kind : the difference between a crime and a disease 
is exactly the same for the Ueterminist as it is for the 
Indeterminist. The difference lies just in the fact that a better 
will would have prevented the one, while it could not have pre- 
vented the other. We cannot prove of course that there is this 
superior value in voluntary good conduct. It is an immediate 
affirmation of the moral consciousness. If the Indeterminist 
chooses to dispute this, it is he and not his opponent who is 
indulging in ethical scepticism, and contradicting the verdict of 
his own moral consciousness. If he likes to say that the same 
moral consciousness which assures him that his acts have value 
tells him also that these morally estimable acts are undetermined, 
the reply is that this apparently immediate affirmation of con- 
sciousness generally disappears for those who understand the 
nature of the question ; and that even Indeterminists fail (as 
I have endeavoured to show) to carry their theory to its logical 
consequences, and to withhold all moral approbation from that 
enormous proportion of human conduct and character which is 
obviously not due to the alleged undetermined choice of the 
individual will. At all events, I can only say for myself that, 
while I am conscious of the immediate judgement or intuition 
that a charitable act has value and a much greater value than 
a good dinner, I have no such immediate intuition that the 
charitable act was an undetermined act, nor can I by any 
analysis whatever discern the slightest logical or psychological 
connexion between the two propositions 1 . If judgements of 
1 I have against me the high authority of the late Professor Sidgwick, who 

330 FREE-WILL [Book III 

value are not to be trusted, then the whole basis of indeter- 
ministic Morality disappears as well as that of deterministic 
Morality. If they are valid, their validity cannot be upset by 
any theory as to how the moral act or immoral act came to be 
done. An act inspired by such and such a character is good, no 
matter what be the historical explanation of the genesis of such 
a character. 


The denial of Indeterminism then does not affect the logical or 
metaphysical validity of our value-judgements. Neither need 
it, so far as I can discover, psychologically have any effect in 
undermining any possible motives that may impel me to perform 
acts which rny moral consciousness recognizes as good or to 
abstain from the contrary acts. Detenoipism is not Fatalism. 
The Fatalist (in so far as so confused a belief admits of analysis) 
believes that he is preordained to perform certain acts or that 
certain events are preordained to happen, no matter how much he 
may struggle against them. The Turk, we are sometimes assured, 
will sit down and calmly watch his house burn without making 
any effort to extinguish the fire, because, if it is the will of Allah 
that it shall be burned down, it is of no use for him to struggle 
against it ; while, if Allah wills that it shall be saved, Allah does 
not want his assistance. What the rational Determinist tells 
him is that the question whether the fire is extinguished or not 
will depend (in part) upon the question whether he brings a hose 
to bear upon it or not : and that depends upon what sort of man 
he is. If he is an active and energetic sort of person with a 
strong desire to save his house, he will certainly make the effort, 
and the amount of the effort will depend upon the strength of 
his desire. No doubt it is impossible to deny that mental 
confusion, such as is implied in Fatalism or misunderstood Deter- 
minism, is sometimes a cause of inertia or other moral obliquity. 
But so may all sorts of true ideas the goodness of God, the 

attributed great weight as an argument for Indeterminism to the ' immediate 
affirmation of consciousness in the moment of deliberate action ' (Methods of 
Ethics, Bk. I, chap, v, 3). I can only say that I never was strongly 
conscious of this * affirmation of consciousness ' in my own case, even when 
I thought that Morality, or at all events Religion, postulated Indeterminism. 

Chap, iii, iv] THE IDEA OF MERIT 331 

possibility of forgiveness, the discovery that there is a ' soul of 
goodness in things evil ' be abused to justify and encourage 
indulgence in wrongdoing to which people are already inclined. 
What is denied is that there is anything logical or rational about 
such arguments. If I have a real desire to be better, that will 
and must influence my conduct : how much it will influence it, 
depends upon the strength of that good desire relatively to other 
desires and impulses. If on account of my discovery that I owe 
this good desire to my parents or my education I abandon 
the effort to be better, that shows that there could never have 
been any very earnest desire to be better, but only perhaps 
a desire to escape punishment, or at best some form of self- 
reproach, which I have persuaded myself would no longer be 
deserved if my evil tendencies could be shown to be determined. 
If it be true that the value of good character and conduct is not 
really affected by the question of its genesis, it is impossible 
that, except under the influence of intellectual confusion, any 
doctrine as to that genesis could destroy or weaken any reason 
for moral effort which I can possibly give to myself or urge upon 

Not only cannot the theory of Indeterminism weaken any of 
the influences which make for Morality in the world : it cannot 
even affect the character of that Morality. There is, indeed, one 
particular branch of Morality which may perhaps be supposed 
to be so influenced. The disappearance of the idea that a man's 
moral worth is (at least in the highest and fullest sense of the 
word) dependent upon the use which he makes of his power of 
undetermined choice may introduce a certain change into our 
ideas of merit and demerit. But we have already discovered that 
the amount of a man's action which is really due to this power 
of undetermined choice cannot be even roughly and approxi- 
mately ascertained. The man who is the maker of his own 
virtue (as it were) and the man whose virtue is due to the 
psycho-physical law which has caused him to reproduce the 
character of some remote ancestor behave (it may be admitted) 
exactly alike : their internal impulses, desires, emotions, and so 
on exhibit even to the closest introspection still more to 
another person not the smallest difference. Hence a standard 

33* FREE-WILL [Book III 

of * merit ' based upon the theory which pronounces the one kind 
of Virtue to be of the highest value and the other of no value at 
all must be entirely unavailable for the guidance of human 
conduct for the distribution of praise and blame, reward and 
punishment, even of self -approval and self-condemnation. How 
far the idea of merit and demerit is really (apart from the 
question of its practical availability) based upon the theory of 
Indeterminism, will depend in part upon the question whether 
we were right in the interpretation which we gave to that notion 
in our chapters on ' Justice ' and ' The Theory of Punishment/ 
The notion of merit in so far as it does not involve the retri- 
butive view of punishment in no way presupposes the theory of 

But the mention of punishment brings me to another form of the 
ethical objection to Determinism. It is said that that doctrine 
can give no meaning to the idea of remgrse or repentance or 
to the idea of responsibility. First, as to the idea of remorse. It 
is probable that the acceptance of Indeterminism may introduce 
a slight psychological difference into this feeling, or rather into 
the way in which the individual articulately formulates the state 
of his consciousness in moments of remorse and repentance. It 
is probable that the common-sense person who has more or less 
consciously and deliberately adopted a theory of philosophical 
Indeterminism may sometimes say to himself, ' My Ego was the 
sole cause of that wrong action, and my Ego as it was simply at 
the moment of action, No matter how I was born, no matter 
what my education, no matter how I may have acted previously, 
no matter what I was at nine o'clock that morning, the sin that 
I committed at ten o'clock might perfectly well not have 
occurred/ Such a view of the facts must be admitted to be on 
determinist principles a delusion. But it may be doubted what 
(apart from such confusions as have already been exposed) is the 
real moral value of that conviction. It is not the conviction that 
his previous self had nothing to do with the act that inspires 
remorse, but the fact that his present self abhors it. The man 
who repents of the act is a man in whom ex hypothesi good and 
bad impulses are struggling for the mastery, or in whom a good 
impulse has permanently, or for the moment, got the better of the 


bad. If the man had no bad impulses, he would not have done 
the act ; if he had no good impulses, he would never have 
repented of it l . On the deterministic view what the man will 
say to himself will be something of this kind : ' No doubt it is 
quite true that, I being what I then was, my antecedents being 
what they were, circumstances being what they were, it was 
inevitable enough that I should have acted as I did. The fact 
that I should be the sort of being that the act showed me to be 
is precisely what causes me pain when I think of it. In the 
light of further reflection, in an altered mood, through the 
" expulsive power of a new affection " or in consequence of some 
other psychological change, I now loathe that side of my char- 
acter which was uppermost at that moment. I regard it as bad, 
and desire to be rid of it.' Could any theory about the genesis 
of that bad self cause the man now to repent of such a * godly 
sorrow/ or weaken the tendency of such sorrow to improve his 
conduct for the future ? If such a theory did have that effect, 
this would seem to show that the sorrow was less sorrow for sin 
than a desire to throw the blame of it upon somebody else God, 
or Nature, or ' circumstances/ or the like or a desire to escape 
the punishment which he thinks would be no longer due, if it 
was really his permanent self that was partly bad and not 
a momentary act of undetermined choice which might reveal 
nothing as to the character of that self. 

But it may be alleged that it is not remorse or repentance in 
itself that cannot be explained on deterministic principles, but 
that consciousness of responsibility which is presupposed by thafi 
experience. What does responsibility really mean ? Etymo- 
logically the word signifies of course the liability to be called 
upon to answer for an act, with the implication that, if the 
agent cannot make a satisfactory defence of it, the doer may 
justly be punished. A man is said to be responsible for an act 
for which he might justly be punished. We hold that a sane 
man is responsible for a crime, because it is just to punish him 
for it, if he cannot disprove the allegation that he committed it. 

1 I here substitute * repentance ' for * remorse,' since a mere wish that we had 
acted otherwise inspired by no moral aversion for the past, and accompanied 
by no desire to be better, has confessedly no moral value. 

334 FREE-WILL [Book III 

We hold that a man is not responsible for a fever not caught 
through any neglect of duty, because it would be unjust to 
punish him for it. The suggestion that Determinism under- 
mines the idea of responsibility means at bottom that on the 
deterministic view punishment would be unjust. Whether that 
is so or not, must depend upon the view we take of the nature 
of punishment. And that is a subject which has already really 
been sufficiently discussed. If the true object of punishment be 
retribution, there might be something to be said for the sugges- 
tion that Determinism would make it unjust. It is true that such a 
connexion between Indeterminism and retributive punishment has 
not always been recognized : some peculiarly truculent supporters 
of vindictive punishment are Determinists. Still it may, perhaps, 
be admitted that retribution would be slightly "more intelligible 
and less irrational upon an indeterministic than upon a deter- 
ministic basis. But if we were right in rejecting the idea of 
retribution, the fact that a man ' could not help ' being born as 
he was, or educated as he was, is no reason why he should not 
be punished. If the judgement of value is to be trusted, he is 
(to the extent of his actual wrongdoing) a bad man ; and (again 
assuming the validity of our moral judgements) a bad man is a 
being who ought not to exist or who, if he does exist, ought to 
be turned into a good one by every means in our power. The 
protection of Society is of course another reason why he should 
be punished, the protection of Society meaning the true good of 
other individuals, each of whom may be worth as much or more 
than the offender. Ideally punishment ought to secure both 
ends : practically, in the administration of ordinary criminal law, 
the social object has to be the prominent one. But, whichever 
side of punishment we look at, Determinism does nothing to 
make it unjust or irrational. To allow the man guilty of a crime 
freely to prey upon Society, because that crime was in the cir- 
cumstances the inevitable consequence of a bad character, would 
be unjust, because it would be treating that individual's freedom 
from pain as of more value than the Well-being of many thousands, 
which it is not ; and Justice means treating every one (as far as 
possible) according to his true worth. To refuse to make him 
better because the process of making him so is one which involves 

Chap, iii, iv] RESPONSIBILITY 335 

some pain would be to treat freedom from pain as of more impor- 
tance than moral character, which it is not. No greater kindness can 
be shown to a bad man than to make him a better one, though the 
process may be a painful one. If punishment be ' social surgery ' 
or a moral medicine for the individual, the fact that a bad man was 
produced by causes is as poor a reason for refusing to apply it 
as it would be to condemn a needful operation because the 
patient's disease or accident was no fault of his own. In saying 
that wrongdoing is a disease, we must always bear in mind the 
immense difference between physical disease and spiritual disease, 
and the consequent difference in the necessary remedies. It is 
not only from the point of view of Society and legal punishment 
that Indeterminism is not necessary for responsibility, but from 
the point of view of the individual himself. If he is sincerely 
penitent, the discovery that he has got a bad self will not make 
him ask for the remission, but for the infliction of punish- 
ment, if haply by that means the bad self may be turned into 
a better one. 

Not only is Determinism not inconsistent with responsibility, 
but it may even be maintained with much force that it_i In- 
determinism which really undermines responsibility. A free acfc 
is, according to the Indeterminist, an absolutely new beginning, 
not springing from, or having any necessary connexion with, the 
past 1 . The question may be raised, What is the meaning of 
holding me ' responsible ' for some past act of mine if that act 
did not really proceed from and reveal the true nature of the 
self which I still am ? If the act sprang up of itself (so to speak) 
without having any root in my previous being, no goodness of 
my previous self could possibly have prevented its perpetration. 
And, as it revealed nothing of my past self, so it would be 
unwarrantable to regard it as reflecting upon my present 
character; since the present self is, in so far as free, simply the 
momentary new beginnings which from time to time intervene 
in the series of my actions without springing from those actions, 

1 This is sometimes evaded by saying that the act is not wholly unconnected 
with the past. The answer is that so far as it is free, it is so unconnected : 
in so far as it is not unconnected with the past, it is not free in the 
Indeterminist sense. 

336 FREE-WILL [Book III 

or from the permanent self revealed in them. It is proposed, for 
instance, to punish me for a theft which I committed five years 
ago. On the determinist hypothesis it is reasonably held that 
the self which stole is the same self which I now am. It is 
proposed to punish me either (from the retributive point of view) 
because the Categorical Imperative says that those who steal 
shall be punished, or (from the medicinal and curative point 
of view) because it is presumed that the same thievish tendencies 
which revealed themselves are still there, and may be removed 
or counteracted by punishment. But from the indeterminist 
point of view I might protest : 4 It is true that this is the same 
animal organism in connexion with which five years ago 
a regrettable incident occurred. But that theft did not spring 
from the same Ego as that which now directs the movements of 
these hands. It was not a self with thievish tendencies that 
stole. Previous to that act I was not thievish. You, my Inde- 
terminist Judge, admit that so far as that act was free, it did not 
spring from anything in my character, but from some extraneous 
and incalculable force which had never revealed itself in me till 
that unfortunate moment. And, as it was not my past self that 
committed it, so neither was it my present self. You admit that 
so far as anything in my past may have necessitated or deter- 
mined what I am now, I am not free ; and you say it is only 
free acts for which people are responsible. But I, the present 
free-willing self, am quite a different sort of person from the self 
of five years ago which stole. I now deeply deplore the strange 
behaviour of the undetermined volition which caused my hands 
to steal, but you might just as well punish any other person for 
the act as myself. And, as punishment would be unjust from 
a retrospective point of view, so it would be useless as regards 
the future. In so far as my present self determines my future, 
my acts are not really free, and it is (you say) only free acts 
that are of any moral value. No efforts on my part, no efforts 
on the part of my punisher, can possibly prevent an undeter- 
mined theft taking place to-morrow in connexion with my 
organism : but they might equally take place in connexion with 
yours. What is the use of punishing and reproving me if, in so 
far as my present self determines my future, my acts are unfree 

Chap, iii, iv] FREEDOM AND CHANCE 337 

and therefore morally worthless ; while, in so far as they are 
really free, they cannot be influenced by anything that I or you 
can do now ? ' 

On indeterminist premisses it seems to me that this line of 
argument is absolutely unanswerable. The Indeterminist will 
attempt to evade its force by admitting that character does 
influence, though it does not completely ' determine ', our acts ; 
that there is always a possibility of action not in accordance 
with previous character, a possibility which the gradual forma- 
tion of character is progressively diminishing and perhaps may 
ultimately extinguish altogether; while the character and the 
resulting acts still retain their moral value because they are 
(in so far as free) the results of the previous undetermined acts. 
But, when such a plea is urged, it is forgotten that ' chances ' or 
'probabilities' are not real things, but merely modes of our 
judgement based on imperfect knowledge of the causes at work. 
In so far as we believe in events undetermined by causes, we 
believe in pure chance ; and in pure chance we have no ground 
for estimating degrees of probability at all. Pure chance is as 
irrational and unthinkable an idea as Fate : and to admit that 
any acts are whether wholly or partially determined by pure 
chance is surely as fatal to the idea of responsibility as to 
ascribe them to an external, overruling Fate. And if there were 
such things as human acts determined by pure chance, they 
could not with any reasonableness be regarded as acts for which 
any particular person is responsible. We have now come round 
from the purely ethical to the metaphysical aspect of the ques- 
tion. Without entering in detail into the idea of Causality, we 
may say that all accounts of that category agree in this that 
everything which has a beginning must be accounted for and 
explained as the necessary outcome of something already in 
existence before that beginning. There are such things as new 
beginnings in the world, but every new beginning has the reason 
or ground of its occurrence in that which was before. In that 
sense the law of universal Causality quite a different thing 
from the mechanical uniformity of Nature does present itself 
to my mind as an absolute necessity of thought. An absolutely 
new beginning, unconnected with the past, is unthinkable. No 


338 FREE-WILL [Book III 

indeterminist theory has ever been able to get over that diffi- 
culty, so far as I (with the strongest predisposition to believe in 
a theory so often associated in other people's minds with the 
beliefs which I hold most firmly and cherish most reverently) 
have ever been able to discover. 

Nevertheless, so great are the difficulties of the subject, so 
small is our human capacity for adequate and self-consistent 
thought when we reach these profound questions as to the ulti- 
mate nature of things, that I should be quite willing to acquiesce 
in an ultimate antinomy between our speculative and our ethical 
thinking, if the idea of Indeterminism presented itself to me as 
in any sense a postulate of Ethics. Antinomies cannot both be 
true, but we may sometimes be unable to resolve them ; though 
the belief in unresolvable antinomies or contradictions more 
often springs from intellectual laziness or intellectual cowardice 
(when they are urged in a conservative interest) or love of 
paradox (when used for destructive purposes) than from real 
intellectual humility and love of Truth. Any one to whom the 
idea of Indeterminism still seems ethically necessary has the best 
of rights to declare his belief in it (for our ethical thinking is as 
trustworthy as any other kind of thinking), even though he 
should be unable to reconcile it with that idea of Causality 
which is the postulate of his scientific thinking. But for myself 
I am unable to discern any ethical objection to Self -determinism, 
or any ethical advantage in Indeterminism, which does not spring 
from misunderstanding. 

Indeterminism is then to my mind no postulate of pure 
Ethics. But there is another point of view from which it may 
be urged that the idea is essential to the rational interpretation 
of the Universe. It may be regarded as essential to the true 
appreciation of the relation between the human will and that 
universal Will from which a sound Metaphysic sees reason to 
believe that the human will is ultimately derived. And here let 
me admit that, in dealing with this aspect of the matter, I should 
wish to speak in a less confident tone. Here we are approaching 
the * greatest wave ' not merely of the Free-will debate buC of 


all metaphysical controversy. A full discussion of such a ques- 
tion cannot be expected in a purely ethical treatise ; but neither 
can all reference to it be avoided by a writer who believes that 
a true theory of Ethics should connect itself with a true theory 
of the Universe. ' We must do what we can/ 

When the theory of Determinism is held in connexion with 
a philosophy which finds the ultimate ground and source of all 
being in a rational will, it is impossible to escape the inference 
that the Will of God ultimately causes everything in the Universe 
which has a beginning including therefore souls and their acts, 
good and bad alike. There is nothing in this admission which 
can compel us to take back anything that has been said about 
the idea of self-determination, and the responsibility of the 
individual soul for its own acts. That we are the cause of our 
own acts is a matter of immediate experience l , as well as 
a necessary implication of our ethical consciousness. And that 
truth is not in the least affected by the undeniable fact that we 
did not make ourselves, and consequently are not the sole causes 
of those acts. Whatever difficulties there may be (especially 
from an idealistic point of view) in the old distinction between 
the ' first Cause ' and ' second causes ' as applied to purely 
natural events, some distinction of the kind is certainly required 
in dealing with the causation of human acts. Human acts are 
not merely acts which succeed one another in a necessary order 
imposed from without (like events in the world of matter), but 
events the character of which is really determined by the nature 
of that soul whose acts they are, a nature which is active, which 
is ever growing and modifying its own nature by its own self- 
development. And yet the development is a development of an 
original nature which the individual did not create for himself, 
and is dependent for its continuance from moment to moment 
upon the continued existence of a world which the individual 
did not create. Theologians usually express this twofold aspect 
of human acts by speaking of the ' co-operation ' of God in every 
act of human volition. Philosophers may prefer some other 
mode of expression, but in one way or other we have to recognize 

1 For a defence of this position I may refer to Dr. Stout 's chapter on * the 
Concept of Mental Activity ' in Analytic Psychology, Vol. I, Bk. II, chap. i. 

Z 2 

340 FREE-WILL [Book III 

that the individual is the real cause of his own acts, and yet that 
(on the determinist hypothesis) he is not the sole or only or 
ultimate cause of them. From any philosophical standpoint 1 
the ultimate cause of every particular event is the original 
nature of a Whole which has no cause and no beginning. If 
the idealistic Theist is right, the Whole consists of God and the 
system of souls, including the world which is their experience : 
and, if the souls have a beginning, then (though in some ultimate 
metaphysical sense they may conceivably be regarded as part of, 
or of one substance with, God) the beginning of their conscious 
individual life, as well as all subsequent stages of that life, must 
be regarded as ultimately due to the Will of God. There is 
nothing in all this to alter the fact that the individual is the 
cause of his own acts : the individual is immediately conscious 
of his own activity. If God causes those acts, He causes them 
in quite a different way from that in which He causes other 
events events in the natural world, or even the acts of non- 
moral animals. For purely ethical purposes we need not look 
beyond the immediate cause of the acts : the cause why a bad 
act is done really is the fact that there is a bad soul in the world. 
Nothing can alter that, and that is all that we want from a purely 
ethical point of view. Yet from the metaphysical or theological 
point of view we must admit also that the soul is made or caused 
by God : and one cannot help asking oneself the question why 
God should make bad souls, and so cause bad acts to be done 2 . 

I have already explained that I find the answer to that ques- 
tion, in so far as any answer to it can be given, in the theory 

1 Except in a certain sense that of Pluralism, which I deal with below. 

3 Many Philosophers will attempt to evade the difficulty by merely 
protesting against the use of such terms as ' making ' or ' creation.' But the 
objection, when applied to the beginning of souls, seems based upon some 
idea of the eternity of Substance which (if it is to be admitted at all) is 
really applicable only to matter. It is possible to find a meaning for the 
idea that souls are all parts or manifestations of a single Substance, but 
I can find no meaning for the idea that they are parts of a single con- 
sciousness (see above, p. 238). Any one who admits that the individual 
consciousness is not without beginning, and is in time, and is the cause 
of acts in time, must admit that God causes that consciousness to begin, and 
is so far (if only so far) the cause of each successive event in its subsequent 

Chap, iii, v] GOD AND EVIL 341 

which expressed in the inadequate and analogical language 
which the Philosopher of any school is obliged to use when 
attempting to explain the ultimate nature of things must be 
described as the union in one and the same Being of absolute 
Goodness with limited Power. Inasmuch as the limitation of 
Power springs not from outside but from within, we may con- 
tinue to speak of God as the Infinite, if it makes us any happier 
to do so ; but, in view of the pantheistic tendency of this mode 
of speech, when adopted in its strict philosophical sense, it may 
be well to avoid the term altogether. The point of the theory 
which I advocate is that God causes bad souls to appear as 
a means to an ultimate good, a good which is unattainable 
without them. The bad is willed, or (if we like to use that 
rather anthropomorphic term) ' permitted/ by God as a means 
to a greater good, without on that account ceasing to be really 
bad. A better Universe is imaginable, but a better Universe is 
not possible, because nothing is really possible but what is 
or will be actual. If we say that God might possibly have 
created a worse world than that which He has created or does 
create, we can mean only that, if we looked only to his Power 
and not to his Goodness, we should see no reason why the 
world should not be worse than it is; and, if we say that 
God might possibly have created a better world than ours, we 
mean that, if we looked only to his Goodness and not to his Know- 
ledge and his Power, we should see no reason why the world 
should not be better than it is. It must be admitted that the 
world is made what it is by a divine volition or series of voli- 
tions which is made what it is by the positive and eternal 
nature of God. That all things flow with rigorous necessity 
from that nature might truly be said, were it not that the use of 
the term ' necessity ' is generally associated with the denial of 
just that doctrine which is here asserted that whatever happens 
in the world is really willed by a self-conscious Spirit for the 
attainment of the ends which He knows to be essentially best. 

It will be contended by some that we are still making God the 
author of evil, though He wills it only as a means, and not as an 
end. But how far, after all, would our theory of the Universe 
be improved by the admission of undetermined choice, side by 

342 FREE-WILL [Book III 

side with original character and circumstance, as a source of 
human conduct with a resulting reaction upon character? 
Undoubtedly, if we could bring ourselves to believe in Indeter- 
minism, we could regard the possibility of sin (but not its 
actuality) as a necessary condition of real Morality, which is 
the highest kind of good. So far the difficulty of accounting for 
evil in a God-willed Universe would be diminished. And, if the 
difficulty were wholly removed by such a hypothesis, that might 
be a sufficient reason for accepting it, while frankly acknow- 
ledging our inability to reconcile it with the self-evident law of 
Causality. But, unfortunately, the difficulty is not removed, 
but only a little attenuated or disguised. Only a small part of 
the evil in the Universe can, on any view which does not refuse 
to look at the facts, be traced to the abuse of our power of 
undetermined choice. The hypothesis will not account for the 
sufferings of animals, or for that enormous proportion of human 
suffering which does not in any way arise out of moral evil l : in 
so far as the human suffering is accounted for as necessary for 
discipline and formation of character, that explanation is equally 
open to those who reject Indeterminism. Nor will it account 
even for all moral evil. Such an enormous proportion of the 
moral evil in the Universe is clearly not due to the abuse of 
Freedom that the difficulty is only slightly attenuated by the 
introduction of an undetermined factor into the well-springs of 
action. It may, indeed, be alleged that much of the evil, which 
in the individual is due to inheritance and environment, origin- 
ally sprang from the acts of undetermined wrongdoing. But 
our knowledge of the actual causes of human wrongdoing is 
sufficient to make it extremely improbable that, if such an 
element of undetermined choice exists in human life, it can 
account for any large proportion of the moral evil which in the 
individual arises immediately from inheritance and circum- 

1 This has been so strongly felt by Renouvier that in La Nouvelle 
Monadologie he has elaborated a theory of a pre-natal Fall. Renouvier'g is 
perhaps the ablest modern attempt to think out the Indeterminist position ; 
but it is unconvincing, and involves much which strikes the unconvinced 
reader as pure mythology. That the idea of a possible sinless evolution of 
humanity under the actual conditions of this planet is unthinkable, no one 
shows more convincingly than the Neo-Leibnizian Philosopher. 


stance : certainly it cannot account for all. And we have 
already seen that to declare that only the undetermined good 
volition is truly and morally good, or the undetermined bad 
volition truly evil, contradicts the plainest deliverances of the 
unsophisticated moral consciousness. And if we admit the exis- 
tence of any moral evil whatever which the individual * cannot 
help ' (in the sense in which the Indeterminist alleges that 
Determinism makes sin something which we cannot help), that 
evil is really for ?iim determined, and springs in the last resort 
from that ultimate constitution of the Universe which to the 
Theist is identical with the nature of God. The Indeterminist 
at least cannot blame the objector for following a too anthro- 
morphic line of thought, when he urges that God is as much 
responsible for evils which He foresees will certainly flow from 
the use which some individual will actually make of the freedom 
with which He has endowed them, as a human being would be 
responsible for the consequences if he placed loaded fire-arms 
in the hands of people who would be sure to commit murder 
with them. If it be said that God does not know that the 
freedom will be abused, and we frankly give up the idea of 
Omniscience *, it may be asked whether we should consider that 
his responsibility was much diminished if a man put the fire- 
arms into the hands of children without knowing whether they 
would or would not make a proper use of them. And after 
all a doctrine of Free-will which involves a denial of God's 

1 As is done by Professor James in The Will to Believe, p. 180 sq., where 
the attempt is made to reconcile this undetermined element with the 
rationality of the Universe by the suggestion that God is like a consummate 
chess-player encountering a novice : he does not know what move the novice 
will make, but he does know that, whatever move the novice makes, he will 
beat him in the end. This is perhaps the best attempt that has ever been 
made to deal with the difficulty, but it does not get over the objection that 
these estimates as to what is possible are based upon the assumption of 
Causality. The expert knows all the moves that the laws of nature and the 
rules of the game permit the novice to take. Where there is an absolutely 
undetermined element, it is difficult to see on what grounds its limits can be 
fixed. If God cannot foresee what use the creatures will make of their 
freedom, how could He foresee that they will not all choose evil, and per- 
sistently choose it so far as and so long as they are free ? And such a choice 
would presumably defeat the purpose of God. 

344 FREE-WILL [Book III 

Omniscience cannot claim any superiority over such a theistic 
Determinism as I have defended on the score of avoiding 
a limitation of the divine Omnipotence. Omniscience need not 
involve Omnipotence, but Omnipotence (in the popular sense) 
certainly includes Omniscience. These are old difficulties ; but 
they have never been satisfactorily met either by Philosophers 
or Theologians, except in so far as they have candidly admitted 
a limitation of divine power. Indeterminist theories introduce 
that limitation quite as much as determinist theories. Not to 
be able to cause good without a possibility of evil is as much 
a limitation as not to be able to cause good without the certainty 
of evil. All the Theodicies really admit such a limitation, except 
those which frankly throw Morality to the winds, and save the 
divine Omnipotence or the divine * Infinitude ' at the expense of 
the divine Love. In this case either Morality degenerates into 
obedience to the arbitrary and capricious commands of a being 
who pursues ends not intrinsically good (or at all events an end 
in which Morality finds no place), or the idea of a divine Will 
disappears altogether and with it all possibility of attributing 
Love or any other ethical character to God. An unethical Deism 
and an unethical Pantheism are the Scylla and the Charybdis 
between which religious thought can only steer its way by 
admitting that God's ends can only be attained by the adoption 
of means which, in themselves and abstractedly considered, are 
bad, and which remain bad from whatever point of view we 
look at them ; however much they may be justified as involving 
less evil on the whole than the omission of those means and the 
non-attainment of the ends to which they are means. In truth 
the very idea of means to an end is unintelligible when the means 
are supposed to be adopted by a being who can attain any end 
whatever without any means at all. The idea of a being who is 
omnipotent, in the popular sense of the word, is the idea of a being 
who has no determinate character or nature whatever. A 
Universe in which everything might happen would be a Universe 
in which nothing was caused. The idea of a Universe in which 
there was an ' infinite ' amount of good contains a cgntradictio 
in adiecto. However much good there was in the world, we 
could still ask/ Why not more good ? ' and so on ad infinitum. 

Chap, iii, vi] PRE-EXISTENCE 345 

Real being must be being of a definite amount. A God who was 
unwilling to create more good for any other reason than inability 
to do so would not be perfectly good. On the other hand, there 
is no similar contradiction in the idea of a Will or a Being 
who is perfectly good inasmuch as He causes all the good that 
his own nature makes it possible for Him to cause. 

We have seen then that the only point at which a difficulty is 
created either for Morality or for Religion by the acceptance of 
Determinism lies in its tendency to make God in a sense the 
1 author of evil ' a sense which in no way excludes the equally 
true proposition that man is the author of it. In a sense, indeed, 
man is the sole author of evil ; for man alone wills the evil 
otherwise than as a means to the true good. God wills the evil 
only as a means to the good, and to will evil as a means to the 
good is not to be evil, or to will evil as such, or to exhibit any 
defect of Goodness. And we have seen that this is a difficulty 
which Indeterminism has equally to admit, since to cause a possi- 
bility of evil is equally to be the author of evil, while the plea 
that the evil is a means to the good is equally open to the 

After all that can be said on this side I admit frankly that it 
would be more satisfactory to be able to say that God was in 
no sense the cause of evil. That is only to say that I could wish 
the Universe were better than it is ; and, if God be the God who 
is revealed to us by our moral consciousness, He wishes that 
too. All Libertarian Theologies represent God as wishing ends 
which are not fully attained : and a Self-determinist Theology 
which is content to maintain that the end is attained sufficiently 
to justify the means involves no further limitation of the divine 


The desire to avoid the admission that God originates souls with 
evil potentialities which must necessarily develope into evil 
actuality is the inspiring motive of those theories of Pre-existence 
which, from the days of Plato and of Origen to those of modern 
4 Pluralism/ seem always to have sprung up wherever men 
have grappled in earnest with the problem of evil. According 

346 FREE-WILL [Book III 

Jto such theories souls are uncreated; while the world-process 
is one by which a good but not omnipotent God is getting 
rid of the evil in those souls, and bringing them to the highest 
perfection of which they are intrinsically capable l . We thus 
get rid of the necessity of tracing any evil, even indirectly 
and as a means, to the Will of God. We trace it to the limitation 
of souls on their ethical side, instead of to the limitations of God 
on his non-ethical side. We are thus able not only to trace all 
moral evil to human willing (we can do that without Pre- 
existence), but to nothing else ; the individual soul is not only the 
cause, but the sole and ultimate cause, of its own sin. In that way 
we do seem to meet the instinctive demand which has found 
expression in the popular indeterminist theory. For even Indeter- 
minism has seldom found it necessary to attribute undetermined 
choice to God. In proportion as Theologians have done so, they 
have tended towards a non-moral view of God's nature, and have 
ended by making a non-moral divine caprice the sole standard 
of right and wrong in human conduct 2 . Ethically minded 
Theologians have generally found it enough to insist that God's 
actions are limited by no necessity but what arises from his own 
goodness, that (in the words of Hooker) 'the being of God is a kind 
of law to his working V And the theory of eternal Pre-existence 
ascribes to man as much freedom as it allows to God. This is so 
far satisfactory. But for one difficulty which the theory of Pre- 
existence removes it creates a hundred. The connexion between 
mind and body, between character and organism, between 
parental or racial character and individual character, is so close, 
that, if the real inmost core of a man's character be due to an 
original eternal nature modified by the acts of previous lives, 

1 e. g. in Professor Howison's Limits of Evolution and Mr. Schiller's The 
Riddles of the Sphinx and other writings. These last write rs, however, so far 
as I understand them, think that Pre-existence is not a sufficient explanation 
of the origin of Evil without Indeterminism, thereby giving up what would 
seem to my own mind the chief attraction of the system. 

1 This tendency is exhibited by Duns Scotus, who based the second table 
of the Decalogue upon the arbitrary Will of God, and by Occam, who 
subsequently referred both tables to such a Will a course in which he was 
followed by many ultra-Calvinistic Divines. 

8 Ecclesiastical Polity, Bk. I, chap. 2. 


we must suppose that every soul after each successive death 
is kept waiting in some extra-corporal limbo till Evolution has 
developed parents to whom it can suitably be assigned, and 
an organism which will serve as a faithful expression of its 
present moral status no less than as an adequate discipline for its 
future moral advancement. The theory is certainly not capable of 
positive disproof, but it is unsupported by the obvious and prima 
facie evidence of experience ; and involves, the more it is worked 
out, a ramifying network of difficulties only to be disguised 
by some mythological structure which itself is the greatest 
difficulty of all. And in the end it seems to give us no ethical 
advantage which we cannot have without it. If the bad acts 
of the eternal soul do not spring from its own eternal nature, 
we have all the difficulties of Indeterminism just as acutely with 
Pre-existence as without it. If they do spring from that nature, 
the evil springs from the inherent limitations of a Universe 
which tends towards the good but has not fully attained it, 
and so far contains an inherent element of evil. Why should 
it be more satisfactory to account for this evil as due to the 
uncaused limitations of the individual, instead of being due 
to the uncaused limitation of the divine nature on its non-ethical 
side ? Pre-existence limits God, arid limits Him from the outside. 
Determinism without Pre-existence limits Him from the inside 
only, without limiting the perfection of his moral nature. God 
is limited, but only by his own nature and by the existence 
of other beings which owe their existence to that nature, and 
such a limitation is one which involves no ethical imperfection. 
On the speculative difficulties apart from Ethics which the 
theory of Pre-existence involves, I forbear to dwell. It is 
enough to say here that the order of the Universe is more easily 
accounted for by a Monism which does not deny the reality 
of individual selfhood than by the Pluralism which recognizes 
a number of entirely distinct and independent sources of 
Being. 1 

1 Most of the difficulties urged against pluralistic theories seem to apply 
equally to Dr. McTaggart's system, according to which the Absolute consists 
in a society of eternal souls, none of which is sufficiently superior in power 
to the rest to be exalted to the name of God, or to be invested with the 

348 FREE- WILL [Book III 


I believe that at bottom the unwillingness of ethical natures 
to acquiesce in Determinism of the kind which I have indicated 
arises from their inability to get rid of the idea of a determina- 
tion from the outside a suggestion which is really no doubt 
involved in the more materialistic varieties of Determinism. 
They cannot get rid of the suggestion of an external coercion 
constraining the man to act in a way in which he the real man, 
who is (as they rightly hold) no mere product and plaything of 
purely physical forces does not wish and desire to act. And 
that is to confuse the causality of a self -developing self with the 
causality of mechanical forces which always is determination 
ab extra 1 . Or, if they do realize that it is the nature of the 
self that determines the particular act, they limit their idea 
of the self to the self already revealed in present consciousness, 
and suppose that Determinism negatives the possibility of 
repentance, improvement, change of character. They forget that 
the self is a being whose whole nature is at present unrevealed 
by anything outside itself at present existing in the Universe 
unrevealed either to self-observation or to any human observa- 
tion, though (we may suppose) not unrevealed to the Universal 
Mind. And this consideration sets strict limits to the possibility 

attributes usually associated with the idea of Godhead. The speculative 
difficulty of Pluralism is, indeed, nominally removed by the declaration 
that the souls collectively form a ' unity ' or * system ', but the difficulty of 
accounting for the unity and order of a material world which is admitted to 
exist only in the experience of selves is still greater on this view than it is 
on the hypothesis of a God ominiscient and enormously superior in power to 
other spirits, but not limited by their independent existence. According to 
Dr. McTaggart the spirits simply happen to find their experience partially 
identical and capable of being reduced to an intelligible system, though it 
never actually exists as a system in any one mind, does not completely exist 
(so far as we know) even in all of them taken together, and is (except as 
regards the infinitesimally small portion of the Universe known to consist in 
the voluntary acts of human or similar spirits) not willed by any or all of 
them. These difficulties will be felt with peculiar force by those who (like 
the present writer) regard the causality of Will as the only true causality. 

1 Except in so far as the successive changes of the material Universe are 
regarded as ultimately willed by God, and are so due to the successive 
volitions which are the unfolding of his eternal Nature. 


of that prediction of future conduct which is instinctively 
resented by minds for which ethical considerations are pre- 
dominant 1 . The possibilities of gradual improvement, or, 
occasionally, of apparently sudden new departures which look 
as if they were unconnected with everything in the previous 
life, can never be estimated with certainty by any knowledge 
of the character as it has already unfolded itself in the man's 
actual consciousness. Experience does no doubt show us that 
the question whether and how far those possibilities shall unfold 
themselves is largely determined by the nature of the environ- 
ment, and there is no ethical advantage in denying that 

1 This possibility is further limited by the consideration that our psychical 
states differ qualitatively, and that what we call the same psychical event 
(emotion, feeling, desire, &c.) in two different persons, or at two different 
times in the same person, is not really the same. There is a certain 
uniqueness about each person, and even about each mental state of 
each person. Hence it may safely be said that we shall never succeed in 
framing * laws ' from which all human actions could be predicted : the 
principle that the same cause will always produce the same effect will not 
help us in the psychical sphere, for the same cause can never recur. All 
this has been admirably pointed out by M. Bergson (Sur les donne'cs 
immtd. de la Conscience, passim). But (i) that writer seems to ignore, 
and even to deny, the fact that there is something alike in psychical states 
as well as something different : we can therefore to a certain extent discover 
laws or uniformities, both in the connexion of the psychical states inter se 
and in their relations to physical events, though the laws will express 
tendencies which are always liable to be modified within certain limits by 
the unique peculiarities of individual persons. (2) M. Bergson hardly seems 
to recognize that there may be causal connexion even when there is unique- 
ness. It is true that no knowledge of the 'laws of character ' would enable 
us completely to say how a given individual (in so far as he differs from all 
other individuals) is going to act without a knowledge of the fact that he 
will actually act in a certain way, but that does not prevent us from 
regarding the act as the necessary result of what he originally was: to an 
intelligence that knew him through and through the future act would be 
seen, as it were, latent in the character, though such a knowledge is 
absolutely inconceivable for an intelligence such as ours. M. Bergson 's 
own position, which he regards as the opposite of Determinism, is one 
which seems to be fairly describable by the word * Self-determinism.' 
I know of no better definition of Freedom (in the true sense) than his 
' nous sommes libres quand nos actes cmanent de notre personalite entiere ' 
(p. 131), but it is desirable for the sake of clearness to admit that this is 
not the liberty which the Indeterminists want, and I am not sure that this 
would be admitted by M. Bergson himself. 

350 FREE-WILL [Book III 

determination. From this point of view Determinism is far more 
encouraging and stimulating to moral effort than a logically 
thought-out Indeterminism. Even if we do not push the 
demand for Freedom to the point of denying that a man can 
ever be made really better by another's efforts, the prospect of 
ridding the world of at least its worst evils must be small 
indeed, if no spiritual influence from outside, no response to that 
influence from within, no continuance in well-doing, no education 
of character can ever exclude an unmeasurable possibility that 
sudden and undetermined moral evil may break out afresh in 
the apparently purified will, and be followed by all the determined 
moral and other evil which such an outbreak must necessarily 
bring with it for other beings. 

The deep-seated moral repulsion against Determinism which 
used at one time to characterize the most zealous champions of 
the rights of Conscience was, I believe, largely due to the 
association of Determinism with a gloomy and unethical The- 
ology, and in particular with the idea of everlasting punishment. 
The attempt to vindicate the ways of God to man on the 
assumption that He makes bad men only in order that they 
may be tortured everlastingly, and that not as a means to the 
moral improvement or future Well-being of themselves or others, 
was indeed a desperate task \ Even now Indeterminism is often 
maintained by conservative Theologians because it seems to 
make the doctrine of everlasting torment a trifle less repulsive 
to the moral consciousness. When we once get rid of such 
baseless figments, the idea that God creates men with some bad 
elements in their characters, and societies containing some men 
on the whole bad, in order that in the end a good greatly over- 
balancing that evil should be realized, is one which has nothing 
in it offensive to the religious consciousness or depressing to 
the moral energies. Indeterminist Theologies and determinist 
Theologies alike represent the history of the world as a divine 
education of souls. According to indeterminist systems that 

1 It is rarely that the idea of everlasting punishment has been defended, 
as it was by A be lard, on Utilitarian grounds as an example to the rest so 
valuable as to make the everlasting punishment of a certain number of 
pinners productive of a maximum of good as the whole. 

Chap, iii, viii] ESCHATOLOGY 351 

education may, and (some would add) must, fail in a certain 
number of cases : the older Theologians did not hesitate to say 
the vast majority 1 . To admit that, is to admit a limitation of 
the divine power : God, it is represented, wishes that all should 
be saved, but some are not saved. Their explanation is the 
intrinsic impossibility of the greatest good without this pos- 
sibility of evil a possibility which we know, and which God 
foreknew 2 , to be actual. And that constitutes a limitation. 


When once we admit any kind or sort of inherent limitation 
to the possibilities of divine action, it becomes impossible, no 
doubt, dogmatically to determine the extent to which the ends 
desired by the eternally loving consciousness will actually be 
realized. To declare that every soul will, immediately on death, 
or even eventually, attain the same kind or the same level of 
moral, intellectual, and aesthetic excellence would be a very 
foolish assertion, completely opposed to all the analogies of our 
present experience. Souls are not the same, and it does not 
look as if they ever would be. To say that every soul will 
reach some particular level of happiness or moral perfection 
which we may choose to understand by the term ' salvation ' 
would be going beyond what we have a right to affirm, though 
perhaps, in so far as we can distinguish between positive moral 
evil and a limitation of moral goodness, the ultimate extinction 
of the former is not beyond what we may hope. What we have 
a right to affirm is that the Universe must be moving to an end 
which is good on the whole in the sense that its existence is 
better than its non-existence, a good which is worth the evil 
that it costs. That there is at no point a final sacrifice of the 
part to the whole is more than we can positively affirm ; but the 
more profoundly we believe in the ultimate rationality of things, 
the more strongly we shall be disposed to believe that for each 

1 It was not only Calvinists who took this view. See Newman's appalling 
sermon ' Many called, few chosen.' 

* From the point of view of Orthodoxy. Few modern Libertarian 
Theologians are bold enough to admit that Indeterminism is incompatible 
with complete foreknowledge : if foreknowledge is denied, we have limita- 
tion again. 

352 FREE-WILL [Book III 

soul once born with the consciousness of a moral ideal an end is 
realized which will on the whole make it good for that soul to 
have lived. We must not push such a reasonable hope beyond 
the limits prescribed by the actual and undeniable facts ; but, 
within those limits, the more completely any theory of the 
Universe allows for such a final triumph of good, the more 
probable will it become for a mind which has once taken the 
initial step of recognizing in the objectivity of the moral con- 
sciousness a revelation of the ultimate meaning and nature of 
the Universe. 

How far this principle will allow us to believe in the 
immortality of animals we have no adequate data for determin- 
ing. In the case of the lowest animals the continuity of their 
existence is so small that it becomes difficult to suppose that 
any future destiny of theirs would intelligibly allow us to 
regard their existence as ' good on the whole ' in the case of 
those (we may hope, the comparatively few) who have failed in 
their present existence to attain an overplus of good (such good 
as they are capable of) on the whole. If we suppose a creature of 
a very low type rewarded hereafter by elevation to a higher kind 
of existence, such a being would not seem to be the same as its 
original germ in any sense which would permit us to regard its 
bliss as a compensation to it for its previous sufferings. Here it 
does seem probable that there must be some sacrifice of particular 
individuals to the good of the whole. As we ascend the scale of 
existence, the greater the worth of their life becomes, the greater 
becomes the probability that no individual will be treated wholly 
as a means. There we must leave the matter. It is perhaps too 
dogmatic to assert that every individual will attain Immortality 
even among human souls. It may, no doubt, be said that all 
that we need for a rationalization of the Universe is a future, 
and not an immortal, existence. That is quite true, but the 
difficulty of believing in Immortality either the real speculative 
difficulty or the merely psychological difficulty of imagining or 
envisaging it is not greater than that presented by the idea of 
a future but not unending existence (except perhaps for those 
who regard all temporal existence as a mere delusive 'ap- 
pearance '). The hypothesis of Immortality for all souls whose 

Chap, iii, viii] MAIA 

actual or potential capacity reaches a certain level of value 
is the one which most completely rationalizes the Universe. 
Hence, upon the presuppositions already explained, it is the more 
reasonable hope. 

To deal with the difficulties presented by the antinomies 
involved in the nature of time would carry us far beyond the 
limits proper to an ethical treatise. From the point of view of 
Ethics at all events human life is in time, and any completion of 
the existing life which is to supply a meaning and justification 
for the defects of the present must be represented as a continu- 
ance of the present life in the future. That all our ideas about 
time are inadequate, and that from the point of view of a divine 
knowledge the inadequacy must in some way disappear, may 
be freely admitted. But that is a very different thing from 
affirming that time belongs to the region of mere ' appearance ' 
and that the only Reality is one which is out of time. The idea 
of an existence out of time is one which for us can possess no 
meaning, unless it be taken in a merely negative sense as 
implying an existence in which the difficulties inherent for an 
intelligence in the idea of endless succession are 'somehow 1 
transcended, we know not how. These difficulties cannot be 
here discussed. Suffice it to say that all our judgements of value, 
and consequently all our moral ideas, presuppose that a good 
which is not now real may by willing be made real. The fact 
that that is so is by itself a sufficient reason for distrusting 
theories of the Universe which tend to make all that is in time 
a mere delusive 'Maia,' and to represent the real Universe as 
one in which, as nothing really happens, inertia must be as 
reasonable as action ; or perhaps more reasonable, in so far as the 
approach to inertia may be thought (however inconsistently) to 
bring a man nearer to that timeless and changeless state from 
which temporal existence is a lapse. For the Philosophies in 
which that which becomes is mere appearance, values too should 
be merely apparent and unreal l . The ethical theory which 
insists on the vanity of all striving is the natural ally in the 

1 This will no doubt be denied. It may be said that timeless existence 
may have value. But our judgements of value pronounce that there is 
a real difference in value between a worse present and a better future : if 


354 FREE-WILL [Book III 

sphere of practice of the speculative theories which represent 
the world or God as an ' is ' in whom and for whom there is no 
' was * or c will be ' and therefore no becoming. That has been 
the general tendency of the great historical Religions which 
are based upon this conception : it would be the tendency of 
modern pantheistic philosophies if anybody ever thought of 
taking them seriously enough to attempt living by them. In so 
far as such theories have entered into the stream of the Western 
religious consciousness, they have frequently resulted in soul- 
destroying Quietism. Those who believe that Morality consists 
in striving, and that Morality is a good-in-itself , will find inspira- 
tion in a Theology which represents God too as striving, but as 
striving for an end which will hereafter be realized in such 
a measure as to make the striving reasonable. 

That the view of Free-will which I have taken involves no 
difficulties is more than I shall assert. The man who declares 
that he has got a theory of the Universe which involves no 
difficulties is simply a man who does not think. I can only say 
that an idealistic Theism, rooted and grounded in Ethics and 
developed on the lines which I have endeavoured faintly to 
sketch, seems to me to involve enormously fewer difficulties than 
any other theory constructive, destructive, or agnostic with 
which I am acquainted. Nothing appears to be gained by the 
assumption of Indeterminism. That there is some further 
solution of the difficulties connected with Free-will and the 
existence of evil, that some further element of truth in Indeter- 
minism unrecognized by determinist theories might reveal 
themselves to a more thorough examination, I think extremely 
probable. I hope that such a further solution of this supreme 
problem will in time be thought out. But I should myself be 
inclined to look for such a consummation in any direction 
rather than in any theory which could properly be called 

Once more, I submit, Determinism of the kind I have suggested 
has nothing in it paralysing or depressing to the most strenuous 

that is pronounced to be a delusion, it is difficult to see why any part of the 
judgement should be retained. At all events the value of the timeless cannot 
well supply a reason for change in the temporal. 

Chap, iii, viii] LIFE A STRUGGLE 355 

moral effort. To my own mind it is far more inspiring than 
most Indeterminist theories of the Universe. It represents God 
as the ultimate source of all being in the Universe that has 
a beginning, and as directing the world-process towards the 
goal which shall attain as much of the highest ideally conceiv- 
able good as can become actual. He calls upon the higher spiritual 
beings who have derived their existence from Him to aid in this 
process. It is a real, and not a merely apparent, struggle to 
which their God-derived moral consciousness invites them. The 
evil is a real evil, though an evil destined to be more and more 
diminished. The rapidity with which and the extent to which 
the evil will be diminished and the good attained really does 
depend in part upon human effort. It is true doubtless that 
God knows how much each of us is capable of aiding towards 
the process, and how much he will aid ; but we do not know, and 
no human being ever can know until he has acted. And there 
is nothing in these considerations to paralyse, but everything to 
quicken and reinforce, all those desires and aspirations which 
determine the extent and manner in which we shall actually be 
permitted to take part in the great process of world-redemption l . 
1 The only modern writer fairly describable as an Indeterminist pure and 
simple who impresses me with the idea of thoroughly appreciating the 
question at issue is Lotze (Microcosnnts, Eng. Trans., I. p. 256 sq. ; Practical 
Philosophy, Chap, iii ; Phil, of Religion, Chap. vii). I do not feel the 
same in reading Dr. Martineau (Study of Religion, II. p. 215 sq.). Nor 
can I quite understand whether Prof. Ward, whose vindication of the real 
causality of Will (in Naturalism and Agnosticism) seems to me of the highest 
importance, means to be an Indetenninist or not. The two most convincing 
arguments against Indeterminism which I know are to be found in Schopen- 
hauer's treatise in Die beiden Grundprobleme der Ethik, and in Dr. McTag- 
gart's Some Dogmas of Religion (Chap. v). The position which I have 
adopted is in the main that of Hegel and his followers, except (i) that their 
treatment of the subject (especially that of Green) seems to me often 
unsatisfactory on account of their vagueness as to the distinction between 
the particular and the universal Ego; and (2) that their theories of a 
timeless Reality and their views of Causation tend to reduce the causality 
of Will to be a mere seeming. I feel much in sympathy with Prof. A. E. 
Taylor's treatment of the subject in Elements of Metaphysics, Bk. IV, chap. iv. 
An admirable account of the real meaning of 'Free-will* (in the Self- 
determinist sense) is also given by Dr. Shadworth Hodgson (The Philosophy 
of Experience, Vol. IV. p. 118 sq.), though in connexion with a Metaphysic 
which I cannot accept. 

A a 2 




I TRUST that the account already given of the nature of our 
moral judgements will by itself have dispelled the notion that 
there is anything in the position here advocated inconsistent 
with a frank and cordial acceptance either of the doctrine of 
Evolution in general or of the particular form given to it by the 
great discovery of Charles Darwin. The idea of Morality in] 
general which we have seen to be at bottom the idea of 
value is an a priori idea in exactly the same sense as that in 
which the idea of Quantity or Cause or the laws of thought are 
a priori. And every particular moral judgement involves an 
a priori element just as every particular judgement about 
Quantity or Causality and every particular act of inference 
involves an a priori element. If the term a priori is open to 
objection, the term ' immediate ' will do as well. What is meant is 
that in these judgements there is an element of knowledge which 
cannot be explained as sensation or any generalization from 
sensation. It is undeniable of course that our ideas of Quantity 
and our powers of reasoning have developed gradually, nor are 
they equally developed in all races or all individuals. And yet 
no one thinks of doubting the truth of the multiplication table 
because there are some savages who (it is said) cannot count ten : 
nor does any one with a rudimentary training in Metaphysics 
think this any objection to their a priori character. Nor, again, 
are the varieties of individual judgement inconsistent with the 
authority that has been claimed for moral judgements as such. 

In short, all that has been said as to the difference between the 
objectivity of the moral judgement and the infallibility of the 
individual Conscience, all that has been said in explanation of 


the variations in moral opinion even among individuals brought 
up in the same community and at the same stage of moral 
development, is applicable a fortiori to the differences between 
different races at various stages of moral and intellectual 
development. And it need hardly be pointed out that the 
development of the moral consciousness is not merely analogous 
to the general intellectual development, but is very closely 
connected therewith. Moral judgements and moral reasonings 
(though they do involve ideas which cannot be derived from or 
analysed into other ideas) do also involve every other kind of 
intellectual activity 1 . That power of abstracting and univer- 
salizing which forms to so large an extent the differentia of the 
human intelligence is eminently necessary in ethical thinking. 
In ethical matters, as in others, this capacity is gradually 
developed. Such abstract ideas as ' duty/ ' right/ ' good in 
general/ ' the duty of man to man as such/ can only be reached at 
all at a comparatively high stage, and in their most abstract and 
reflective form only at a very advanced stage, of intellectual 
development. In the present state of ethical thought it will be 
perhaps unnecessary further to labour the point that our moral 
ideas are gradually developed in exactly the same sense, and in 
exactly the same way, as any other of the capacities of the 
human soul, and that this forms no more reason for doubting 
their validity than in the parallel case of the multiplication 

These considerations might be held to dispense us from any 
further treatment of the relation of Evolution to Ethics. The 
Moral Philosopher is no more bound to deal with the history of 
ethical development than the Geometrician is bound to preface 
a geometrical treatise with an anthropological or psychological 
discussion upon the genesis and development of the idea of space 
and its various determinations. The business of the Moral 
Philosopher is simply to analyse the contents of the moral 
consciousness as it is. No true account of what the moral 
consciousness actually is can possibly be vitiated by any true 
account of its genesis. No doubt accounts are sometimes given 

1 This point is well brought out by Mr. L. T. Hobhouse in his Mind in 
Evolution, Chap, xiii sq. 


of the genesis of Morality which do seem to be destructive of the 
authority claimed for the moral faculty. Where this is the case, 
it must be due to one of three causes: (i) Either the facts 
alleged are true as far as they go but they will not by them- 
selves really explain the ideas which they are supposed to 
explain, or (2) the moral historian must be mistaken in the facts 
on which the theory is supposed to rest, or (3) what purports to 
be a mere statement of historical facts really implies already 
a theory about the actual nature of Morality and the developed 
moral consciousness which goes beyond the mere statement of 
historical or psychological facts. 

An illustration or two may be desirable. It is asserted that 
' Altruism ' has grown out of ' Egoism.' But if I am right as 
a matter of psychological fact in asserting that I do now desire 
another's happiness, no history of the process by which a supposed 
primitive ' Egoism ' passed into Altruism can possibly alter the 
fact that I am now altruistic, or require me to modify any 
ethical judgement which may be based upon the value of 
altruistic conduct. Any theory which purports to require such 
a modification must be one which at bottom implies that I do 
not now really desire another's good, but only appear to do so, 
while in fact I concern myself for my neighbour's good only as 
a means to my own : and that is a theory which can be refuted 
by mere introspection. Or take the attempts made to show that 
the idea of moral obligation is nothing but an inherited fear of 
the police. No demonstration that there were once people whose 
moral ideas were limited to a fear of the police, living or 
ancestral, human or ghostly, can alter the fact that I have 
now an idea of value which is quite different from a mere 
feeling or dread of some powerful being, visible or invisible. 
The theory either misrepresents what I now feel, or fails to 
account for it, or accounts for it in a way which implies (on the 
basis of some tacitly assumed metaphysical theory) that, even if 
I do now, as a matter of psychological fact, think an idea of 
Tightness which is other than fear of an imaginary police, my 
belief is a delusion which has no basis or foundation in Reason 
or Reality. The psychological theory (with its ethical implica- 
tions) does not really rest upon the history ; the history rests 


either upon mistaken observation of present psychological fact or 
upon some mistaken metaphysical interpretation of it. 

And that brings us to another reason against mixing up the 
question of what Morality is with theories about the process of 
its development. The sole data for any ethical theory are those 
supplied by the actual contents of the moral consciousness. 
And we know a great deal more about the moral consciousness 
as it is than we do about the moral consciousness or pre- 
moral consciousness of savages and animals. We are told by 
Sgenper in regard to Ethics that c as in other cases, so in 
this case, we must interpret the more developed by the less 
developed V Within certain limits the statement no doubt 
holds to a large extent in the region of physical Science. Much 
light has no doubt been thrown on the actual nature of animals 
in the higher stages of Evolution by the study of the lower ; but 
even here the converse statement would be at least equally true. 
That the undifferentiated protoplasm of the Amoeba discharges 
the function of nerve as well as of muscle is a fact which could 
scarcely have been discovered except by enquirers starting with 
the knowledge of what nerve is and what muscle is in their 
higher, more differentiated forms. And with regard to Morality 
and psychical life generally this is still more emphatically the 
case. For the minds of savages and of animals do not lie open 
to the direct observation which is possible in the case of their 
bodies. The simplest statements that we can make about them 
are arrived at only by inference from our own self-knowledge : 
and the difficulty of mentally picturing mental states lower than 
any that we know (to know them would at once make them 
different from what they are) is so great that there must be a 
considerable presumption against any method of ethical enquiry 
which pretends to explain the more developed by the less 
developed. No subject is more speculative than prehistoric (or 
even historical) Psychology. It is scarcely possible that any 
account of the genesis of Morality should not presuppose some 
view as to the actual nature of the developed moral conscious- 
ness. If that account is a false one, it must vitiate the whole 

1 Data of Ethics, p. 7. (This work now forms Part I of the Principles of 
Morality, Vol. I, but the pagination is unaltered 


evolutionary history which is based upon it. A theory of Ethics 
which rests upon an evolutionary theory which presupposes it 
really rests upon nothing but itself. 

Prima facie these considerations might be held to dispense us 
from touching upon the question of Evolution and Ethics, except 
so far as to point out its irrelevance to our present enquiry. 
The history of moral ideas is no doubt a most important and 
interesting, as well as a very difficult, subject. It belongs (from 
different points of view) to Anthropology, to Psychology, to 
Sociology, to general history, to the history of Philosophy, but 
not to Philosophy itself. For the present purpose the subject 
might very well be ignored altogether, and it is impossible to 
treat it otherwise than most inadequately. But for two reasons 
it seems better to make a few remarks on the subject than to 
pass it over altogether. In the first place it is alleged by some 
evolutionary writers that the doctrine of Evolution supplies, us 
not merely with a history of moral ideas, but wijh an actual 
theory of conduct actual information as to what ought now to 
be done or left undone which could not otherwise have been 
arrived at: and these theories have attracted much attention 
both with Philosophers and with the general public. The reader 
may naturally expect that a writer who ignores such theories 
should at least give some reasons for his disregard of them. 
Secondly, while from the point of view here adopted it is incon- 
ceivable that a theory of Ethics resting upon a sound basis of 
introspection, with a sound Metaphysic behind it, should be 
fundamentally revolutionized by the facts of moral Evolution, 
it does not follow that these facts may not contain some instruc- 
tion for the Moral Philosopher. All Philosophy must rest upon 
a comprehensive survey of the whole facts about the Universe as 
ascertained by Science and by History. Moral Philosophy must 
rest upon a survey of all the facts which concern the moral life : 
and among those facts the actual course of development in the 
moral ideas of mankind (and even of sub-human animals in 
so far as anything analogous to Morality can be detected 
in them) occupies an important place. There might well be 
supposed to be an a priori probability that a mental revolution 
so great as that involved in the general acceptance of the main 

Chap, iv, ii] DARWIN 361 

principles of Darwinism should have some effect upon Ethics, as 
upon other departments of human thought. If we approach the 
speculations of the so-called evolutionary writers with less hope 
of instruction than we might otherwise do, it is not because the 
fact that moral ideas have developed, and the particular way in 
which they have developed, are not matters of profound signifi- 
cance for the Moral Philosopher, but rather because in the main 
the actual course of ethical development was fairly well known 
before. The doctrine of Evolution did not come into existence with 
Darwinism. Darwinism is itself only one particular application 
of this characteristic idea of all nineteenth-century speculation. 
The idea of development had been fully appreciated by Hegel, 
and had been abused by John Henry Newman, long before the 
appearance of The Origin of Species. These remarks are not 
made for the purpose of depreciating the influence which has 
been exercised upon thought by the distinctly Darwinian idea of 
development through natural selection, but merely to moderate 
our expectations as to the amount of instruction which the 
Moral Philosopher may expect to find in it. 


Any discussion of the relation between Ethics and Evolution 
might be expected to begin with some account of the interesting 
chapter devoted to that subject by Charles Darwin himself in 
the Development of Man. But his remarks are of so simple and 
untechnical a character so little directed to the solution of any 
definite question discussed by Moral Philosophers that they 
hardly call for much remark from the point of view which we 
have adopted. Darwin's main object was to suggest that there 
was a complete continuity, in this as in other respects, between 
animal and human life, and so to prevent the moral capacity of 
human beings being employed as an argument against the 
hypothesis of their evolution by slow and gradual stages from 
a non-human ancestor. This continuity is in one sense of the , 
term a fact which no Moralist, theoretical or practical, has the 
slightest interest in denying. The differences between man as 
he is in his developed state 'and animals as we know them 
become neither greater nor less because it is possible to trace 


a^continuous development from the one to the other. It is only 
the absurd Psychology which supposes that a mental state which 
has grown out of another mental state or activity still is the 
state or activity which preceded it that mental states can be 
resolved into antecedent states as chemical compounds can 
be resolved into their component elements which can raise any 
prejudice against the admission that intellectually and morally 
as well as physically man has grown out of a mere animal. No 
difficulty is created for Ethics by the admission that the non- 
moral animal has become the moral man by passing through 
a number of intermediate stages, which has not always existed in 
the fact that the non-moral infant-in-arms grows into the imper- 
fectly moral child, and the imperfectly moral child into the 
full-grown and moral adult. In the one case as in the other the 
difference between the two is in no way lessened by the fact 
that it is impossible to point to the exact moment at which 
the transition takes place. Nor is it only our defective know- 
ledge which debars us from drawing the line at any definite 
point of development. For the difference between the moral 
and the non-moral is not a single, definite, and assignable 
difference. We may by abstraction talk of a ' moral faculty/ but 
the presence of that faculty makes everything else in conscious- 
ness different, or (from another point of view) it presupposes 
such differences in everything else impulse, feeling, habit, 
intelligence, will. We might take particular aspects or features 
of the difference between the moral and the non-moral being and 
ask in detc^il when each begins ; but even for perfect knowledge 
the germ of each would be so unlike the developed product that 
it is only in the light of what it may become that any common 
character could be discerned between them. It is enough 
therefore to say that this continuity between the man and the 
animal may be fully accepted without affecting anything that 
has been contended for or will be contended for in this book l . 
That there are germs of Morality germs which, though not 

1 It is true also that all development is only intelligible as a continual 
series of absolutely new beginnings, and that at "particular moments these 
ngwj?jegi jnngs may be of fundamental significance and importance. But 
I do not profess to expound any theory as to the nature of mental Evolution. 

Chap. iv,ii] HUMAN EVOLUTION 363 

Morality, supply the soil, as it were, in which Morality grows 
in the higher animals is probable : it is certain that the lowest 
men are moral in a very imperfect and rudimentary sense. 
Their superiority to animals consists, indeed, largely in the fact 
that they possess a vastly greater capacity for moral education 
than any existing race of animals. It is only in the light of 
some practical purpose that there is any meaning in requiring us 
to say definitely and categorically where Morality begins. With 
children we shall always have to face the difficulty as best we 
can. We punish infants only as we punish animals, and at 
different ages we recognize different stages of ' responsibility ' or 
moral capacity. Fortunately the disappearance of the * missing 
links ' between mere animal and full man renders the practical 
questions that arise in this connexion comparatively easy of 
solution. Even among existent races it is right to recognize 
their variable moral capacity. We do not give votes to 
Australian Aborigines, and for many purposes they are rightly 
treated as children. We may in the fullest degree assert the 
rights of all existing savages to the elementary rights of 
humanity to life, to some measure of liberty and of property 
without denying that, had various intermediate species survived, 
great difficulties might have been felt in deciding who were entitled 
to be regarded as i men.' And it might well be that the answer 
would have been different for different purposes. We might 
quite reasonably have refused to recognize rights of property in 
those to whom we still accorded the right to life : we might 
have defended the enslavement of beings whom we should 
rightly have protected from arbitrary massacre, and whom we 
should have scrupled to eat. 

Besides this plea for continuity there is little in Darwin's 
famous chapter which calls for remark here. It is true that he 
tends to look at Morality from a purely naturalistic point of 
view, but the treatment is so slight and so popular that the 
non-naturalistic aspects of Morality are rather ignored than 
denied. The greatest men of Science are, as a rule, those who 
know their own limitations best. The pretensions of Evolution 
to give us a substitute for the old ideas of * Conscience/ authority, 
moral obligation, and the like, may therefore be more conve- 


niently examined in the works of the writer who has usually 
been regarded as the prophet of Darwinism in the region of 
Philosophy. The task is not an easy one ; for, though 
Herbert Spencer claimed, as his greater predecessor did not 
claim, to write Philosophy, he uses terms in so vague and 
popular a sense, he is so unacquainted with the previous history 
and real meaning of the ethical and metaphysical controversies 
on which he touches, he shows such a profound misconception of 
the theories which he criticizes, that the humblest student who 
has the advantage of an elementary training in Philosophy is 
apt to treat him as one would treat a writer on Geometry 
who had never read Euclid (or whatever may be his modern 
equivalent), or a book on Mechanics whose author showed an 
ignorance of the first law of motion. 

Such an estimate of Herbert Spencer would, however, be 
a mistake. It is true that the Theology against which he girds 
is a Theology which, even in that writer's early life in a 
provincial town, could hardly have been preached even in the 
pulpit or the Sunday school without qualifications and reserva- 
tions which he did not take the trouble to observe. The 
exaggerated ' Altruism ' which he attacks is something which no 
Philosopher, Christian or other, has ever seriously taught 1 . The 
exhortations about the moral duty of preserving one's health, 
not going out on cold days without a great-coat, and the like 
were well-recognized ethical precepts even among such very 
unphilosophical characters as fill the pages of Miss Austen's 
novels, though the best of them might have given a somewhat 
lower place in their ethical ideal to mere Valetudinarianism. 
The ' Intuitionism ' which he attacks is something which has 
never been maintained, though it is undoubtedly true that 
many intuitional writers have not always fairly faced even 
the elementary difficulties upon which Spencer harps. It will 
be unnecessary to examine elaborately this side of Spencer's 
teaching. But running through these ' glimpses of the. obvious ' 
there are two or three ideas which deserve serious attention 

1 Such Altruism was condemned even by mediaeval Councils. The pro- 
position that one ought to love one's neighbour better than oneself has been 
treated as a definite heresy. 

Chap, iv, iii] HERBERT SPENCER 365 

if only because, in more or less altered forms, they have com- 
mended themselves to writers of a higher intellectual stature 
than the author of the Synthetic Philosophy. 


The ethical doctrine of Herbert Spencer may be said to contain 
three main elements : (a) the attempt to reduce the idea of moral 
authority or Tightness in general to the inherited fear of social, 
regal, and divine or ancestral displeasure ; (b) the attempt to 
explain by evolutionary forces, and particularly by the doctrine 
of natural selection, why this idea of moral authority or right- 
ness came to attach itself to particular kinds of conduct to such 
an extent that the individual regards the moral rules in question 
as * self-evident ' or ' a priori ' ; (c) the attempt to substitute a 
* scientific ' moral criterion for the * hedonistic calculus ' of 
empirical Utilitarianism. A few words must be said on each of 

The first point in Spencer's Ethics which it seems desirable 
to notice is, then, his explanation of the idea of moral authority 
in general or of the idea of duty. In so far as he refers the 
idea of obligation to the inherited effect of ' sanctions ' social, 
political, and religious his doctrine is of course simply the 
doctrine of all sceptical Moralists from the time of Thrasymachus 
to that of Mandeville, with the addition that the idea is supposed 
to be impressed on the consciousness of the individual by heredity 
as well as by tradition. All that has been said in previous 
pages in defence of the idea that our judgements of value are 
rational judgements might be repeated here as an argument 
against the theory which makes the idea of duty or good into 
a merely subjective, emotional susceptibility. The theory, if it 
were true, is one which undermines the belief which it professes 
to explain. In so far as a man comes to believe that the feeling 
of awe with which he contemplates the idea of failure in duty is 
due solely to the inherited terror of now powerless chiefs or of 
ghosts which no longer walk the earth, that terror must tend to 
vanish. We know as a matter of fact that it persists in persona 
who are quite free from superstitious terrors about the dangers 
of ancestral displeasure. I know that my idea of Right is not 


such a merely subjective terror by immediate reflection, just as 
I know that my idea of Causality or Number is not a mere 
subjective tendency to expect the recurrence of sensations 
resembling those which have previously associated in my 
experience, or to escape the penalties which failure to repeat 
the multiplication table correctly may at one time have incurred. 
But the imaginary police theory is only one half of Spencer's 
doctrine. It is, after all only the ' compulsiveness ' attaching to 
the ordinary idea of duty which is traced to what Mandeville 
would have called the ' political progeny of prejudice begat on 
pride/ The idea of authority is, it would appear, something 
distinct from the idea of ' compulsiveness/ and for this idea 
Spencer has no strictly evolutionary justification. The idea 
of duty in general is obtained by abstraction from particular 
feelings which carry with them the idea of authority. What 
these feelings are, may be best described in Herbert Spencer's 
own words : 

1 We have seen that during the progress of animate existence, 
the later-evolved, more compound and more representative feel- 
ings, serving to adjust the conduct to more distant and general 
needs, have all along had an authority as guides superior to that 
of the earlier and simpler feelings -excluding cases in which 
these last are intense. This superior authority, unrecognizable 
by lower types of creatures which cannot generalize, and little 
recognizable by primitive men, who have but feeble powers of 
generalization, has become distinctly recognized as civilization and 
accompanying mental development have gone on. Accumulated 
experiences have produced the consciousness that guidance by 
feelings which refer to remote and general results, is usually 
more conducive to welfare than guidance by feelings to be 
immediately gratified. For what is the common character of the 
feelings that prompt honesty, truthfulness, diligence, providence, 
&<5. which men habitually find to be better prompters than the 
appetites and simple impulses ? They are all complex, re-repre- 
sentative feelings, occupied with the future rather than the 
present. The idea of authoritativeness has therefore come to be 
connected with feelings having these traits : the implication 
being that the lower and simpler feelings are without authority. 
And this idea of authoritativeness is one element in the abstract 
consciousness of duty V 

1 Data of Ethics, pp, 125-6. 


The main difficulty which one feels in criticizing this account 
is the extreme uncertainty in which Spencer leaves us as to 
what he supposes ' authority ' to mean. If he means by it any- 
thing like what ordinary people mean, one has only to say that 
he admits his opponent's case. The process by which we have 
come to attach the idea of authority to certain acts rather than 
to certain other acts is in a sense not very lucidly or con- 
vincingly, it must be said on Herbert Spencer's premisses 
explained. But the explanation is one which postulates the 
idea of authority already in the minds of those who feel it. 
For what after all is it that the course of Evolution has taught 
the human race ? * That guidance by feelings which refer to 
remote and general results, is usually more conducive to welfare 
than guidance by feelings to be immediately gratified.' ' Con- 
ducive to welfare ' but whose welfare ? If one's own, it is 
clear, as is frequently admitted by Spencer, that, though an en- 
lightened Ethic will recognize a moral obligation in the precepts 
of Prudence, it is specially to rules of conduct which conduce to 
other people's welfare that this idea of authority inherently 
attaches. And what is meant by saying that ' authority ' 
attaches to such rules ; that we think that they ought to be 
obeyed ? It is true that the authority which is ascribed to these 
rules is not, according to Spencer, ultimate : it belongs to them 
as means to general welfare. General welfare, then, is recognized 
as something which ought to be promoted, as the rational end of 
action, as possessing ultimate value. But why should we be 
guided by feelings conducive to other people's welfare ? From 
other parts of Spencer's writings, it would seem that the 
answer would be * from sympathy.' This explanation may 
possibly explain the fact that some people do actually, in a 
greater or less degree, promote other people's welfare : it cannot 
explain why they should feel bound to do so, whether they feel 
naturally inclined to do so or not. It cannot explain why 
sympathy should be regarded as a ' better guide ' than selfish- 
ness which is the fact of consciousness which presumably 
Spencer set out to explain. If all that Spencer means 
is that this rational idea or category of Rightness has onlj 
gradually developed, and that social pressure of various kinds 


has been one of the conditions of its development (just as 
Arithmetic was developed under pressure of commercial neces- 
sities), there is nothing in his contention which any modern 
Idealist would wish to deny. With regard to all Spencer's 
explanations of the idea of duty in general, it is difficult to make 
out whether he himself thinks that he is explaining it or 
explaining it away whether the explanation is put forth as 
a vindication or as a refutation of its validity. 

There are, indeed, parts of Spencer's writings especially the 
section of his Principles of Ethics styled Just-icein which he 
would seem almost prepared to admit the simple, a priori un- 
analysable character of the idea of Right. The treatment which 
he there bestows on that virtue would seem to suggest that he 
recognizes the rule of Justice on account of its supreme 
conduciveness to pleasure, which is with him the ultimate end 
as an a priori dictate of Reason. It is not easy to believe 
that the following passage can really have been written by the 
author of The Data of Ethics : 

' But what is the ultimate meaning of expediency ? When it 
is proposed to guide ourselves empirically, towards what are we 
to guide ourselves ? If our course must always be determined 
by the merits of the case, by what are the merits to be judged? 
" By conduciveness to the welfare of society, or the good of the 
community," will be the answer. It will not be replied that the 
merit to be estimated means increase of misery ; it will not be 
replied that it means increase of a state of indifference, sen- 
sational and emotional ; and it must therefore be replied that it 
means increase, of happiness 1 . By implication, if not avowedly, 
greatest happiness is the thing to be achieved by public action, 
or private action, or both. But now whence comes this 
postulate ? Is it an inductive truth ? Then where and by 
whom has the induction been drawn ? Is it a truth of 
experience derived from careful observations ? Then what are 
the observations, and when was there generalized that vast 
mass of them on which all politics and morals should be built ? 
Not only are there no such experiences, no such observations, no 
such induction, but it is impossible that any should be assigned. 
Even were the intuition universal, which it is not (for it has 
been denied by ascetics in all ages and places, and is demurred 

1 On the Logic of this argument I have commented below, p. 378. 

Chap, iv, iii] SPENCERIAN JUSTICE 369 

to by an existing school of moralists), it would still have no 
better warrant than that of being an immediate dictum, of 
consciousness V 

And Spencer goes on to show that the greatest happiness 
principle becomes meaningless without the addendum ' one 
person's happiness ... is counted for exactly as much as 
another's. 1 ' Hence the Benthamite theory of morals and 
politics,' he admits, ' posits this as a fundamental self-evident 

The passage is doubly inconsistent with the Spencer of the 
Data, for, in the first place, in Justice the ultimate end of 
conduct becomes, not as in the Data, that mere ' welfare ' in 
general (no matter whose welfare it is) which the ' re-repre- 
sentative feelings ' promote, but the promotion of Justice, which 
is something quite other and possibly inconsistent with the pro- 
motion of general welfare the rule that ' Every man is to do 
what he wills, provided he infringes not the freedom of any 
other man.' And secondly, it is not now mere ' feelings ' to 
which ultimate moral authority attaches, but a dictate of Reason 
which, we may suppose, recognizes that these feelings have 
a preferential claim to respect. And this dictate of Reason 
implies a distinct and analysable idea of * rightness ' or ' goodness/ 
for ' consciousness ' cannot tell us that it is right to be just 
unless we know what ' right ' means. Such an idea of authority 
cannot be distilled by any process of abstraction from ' re- 
representative feelings/ unless those feelings are already invested 
with this idea of authority by something which is not feel- 
ing. Here the great Evolutionist appears in the light of a 
rationalistic Moralist, and one feels for the moment tempted 
to see in the passage the influence of some deceased and deified 
ancestor whose ghost, still haunting his descendant, has com- 
pelled him to do sacrifice to the idols which the Synthetic 
Philosophy was, once for all, to have demolished. 

But such an interpretation as I have suggested would probably 
be unjust. After all, it would seem that these a priori beliefs 
are , not . really a priori. They are a priori to the individual 

1 Justice (Principles of Morality, Vol. II. pt. iv), pp. 57, 58. 
8 Ib. 



but a posteriori to the race. They are due to accumulated 
experiences. But experiences of what ? The rightness or 
authority of any course of action cannot be ' experienced/ At 
most it would only be a belief in the conduciveness of this rule 
of Justice to tribal welfare which could be experienced, and so 
transmitted by inheritance and natural selection. We think 
we ought to speak the truth, we know not why : but the 
evolutionary philosopher is in a position to tell us that originally 
our ancestors discovered that truth-speaking was conducive to 
the preservation and welfare of the individual and the race, and 
natural selection has killed off those individuals and those races 
which were most incurably given to lying a very bold hypothesis 
in view of the habits of some surviving races. This at least 
is the explanation which Spencer gives of the apparently 
a priori character of other axiomatic truths. The question 
whether two and two make four or five was to our remote 
ancestors an open question to be decided by experience ; but 
from constant familiarity with cases in which two and two were 
found to make four they eventually bequeathed to their posterity 
a physiological incapacity for supposing they made five, so that 
to us the idea that they make four has become a logical necessity 
of thought. Whether Spencer himself would have attempted 
to extend this doctrine as to the source of our belief in axioms 
to the fundamental moral truth that it is right to promote 
general welfare, and how he would have done it, it is impos- 
sible to say; but on the assumption that this attempt would 
have been made, a few remarks on the Spencerian theory of 
axioms may not be out of place. 

A full examination of the theory would evolve an elaborate 
metaphysical discussion. It may be enough to point out that \f 
^ajbheory which, though it holds out an attractive prospect of 
reconciling the empirical with the a priori School of Metaphysics, 
really undermines all our confidence in the validity of know- 
ledge. Every inference that we make implies certain laws of 
thought or principles of reasoning. If these laws are really no 
necessities of thought but mere inherited results of accidental 
experiences, it is possible that they are untrustworthy. To 
t>elieve in the law of contradiction may at one time, under 


aj^articular set of circumstances, have aided our ancestors in the 
struggle for existence ; as on Spencer's view, and on any possible 
view, has undoubtedly been the case with many beliefs not 
objectively true. The more clear-sighted thinkers who discerned 
its falsity were, it is conceivable, killed off by natural selection : 
while, as to ourselves, we have now become physiologically 
incapable of discovering the ancestral mistake. That being so, 
we are compelled to accept Spencer's theory about ethical and 
other axioms (which professes to rest upon clear thinking) ; but 
if belief in the law of contradiction may really be false, all the 
arguments upon which Spencer's theory rests may likewise be 
untrustworthy and the theory may be false after all, no matter 
how little we can help believing in it. True, it is assumed that 
the beliefs were engendered by accumulated experiences of 
actual fact, but then these experiences were partial and local. 
Our race may have originated in parts of the world in which 
the law of contradiction happened to prevail, and which con- 
tained no circles with segments greater than their arcs. But 
the deep-sea regions revealed to modern explorers might teem 
with such circles, and yet the explorers would be ex hypothebi 
incapable of perceiving the fact l . Spencer's theory involves 
us in hopeless scepticism, as does every theory which attempts 
to account by experience for the principles of thought, which are 
implied in every step of the process by which experience itself 
is turned into knowledge. 

A theory which leads to such results when applied to the 
ultimate bases of knowledge is equally incompetent to account 
for the ultimate basis of our moral beliefs. In this case no 
doubt the same easy reductio ad absurdum is not possible. It 
is not so easy to reduce to self-contradiction the theorist who 
professes to explain away the idea of duty as the theorist who 
explains away, while professing to explain, the law of contradic- 
tion. For we can argue without assuming the truth of moral 
principles, though we cannot argue without assuming the axioms 
of thought. But we can point out that the two kinds of 
axiomatic truth really rest upon the same basis. And it is, as 

1 I borrow this line of argument from Professor Cook Wilson's brilliant 
inaugural lecture on * Mr. Spencer's Theory of Axioms.' 

B b 2 


a rule, fairly easy to show that the critic who tries to explain 
away moral obligation has the idea, and more or less completely 
acts upon it, as much as the people whom he criticizes. Herbert 
Spencer himself is constantly using the terms 'higher' and 
* lower/ ' ethically higher and lower ' in a way which would be 
meaningless if he really meant them in the evolutionary sense 
that is to say, more ' integrated/ more differentiated, more 
complex and when he argues in support of his view that 
pleasure is the ultimate good or end, he shows how impossible it 
is to think without implying the idea of Value, His judgement 
that pleasure is the sole good is, in short, like all ultimate moral 
principles, an a priori judgement of value, true or false. At 
bottom it is probable that nothing was further from Herbert 
Spencer's intentions than to explain away the ultimate authority 
of the Moral Law. He did not see that what he offered as an 
explanation and vindication of that authority must really have 
the effect of undermining it. 


Considered as an attempt to explain the idea of validity or 
self-evidencing authority attaching to our intuitions in general 
and to every one of them, Spencer's theory must be treated as 
part and parcel of a metaphysical system which there are good 
metaphysical grounds for rejecting. But if the theory is put 
forward simply as an explanation of particular 'intuitions' in 
the popular sense of the word, of rules of conduct which have 
actually presented themselves to particular races and individuals 
as self-evidently binding, it may at once be admitted that there 
may be considerable truth in it. No accumulation of experiences, 
personal or ancestral, could ever generate the idea of 'good' or 
' value ' in a consciousness which did not possess it : but, given 
the existence of such a concept (which, of course, does not 
express itself in an abstract form prior to particular judgements 
of value but is implied in the simplest of them), the varying 
experience, environment, and intellectual development of races 
and individuals unquestionably does and must explain why the 
idea of value has come to attach itself to particular kinds of 


conduct rather than to others. It is undoubtedly true, as 
Spencer has so exhaustively shown in his Principles of 
Sociology a much more interesting and important work than 
the Principles of Ethics that it is the necessity for military 
efficiency which accounts for the high estimate placed by some 
races upon such qualities as courage, endurance, and submissive- 
ness to chiefs, and for their contempt for the more amiable and 
the more industrial virtues, while peaceful tribes have attached 
a high value to truth and a very low one to discipline or 
obedience. The qualities were originally valued because they 
were felt to be conducive to tribal Well-being, and afterwards 
came to be valued for their own sake without any such conscious 
regard to tribal Well-being. All this is undeniable, and there is 
little in it that can be claimed as the monopoly of ' evolutionary 
Ethics/ Essentially it is the commonplace of all pre-evolutionary 
Utilitarianism, and will not now be denied by non-hedonistic 
Moralists who have recognized the slow development of Morality; 
though these last might insist that even very barbaric ideals of 
tribal Well-being contain an element which goes beyond the 
conception of a ' greatest quantum of pleasure ' for the tribe. 
Only two elements in this explanation of apparently intuitive 
beliefs are new. Firstly, the theory of natural selection is held 
to explain how the tendency to practise and approve conduct 
conducive to personal or tribal Well-being was strengthened by 
the dying-out of individuals or of tribes which did not accom- 
modate themselves to the socially beneficial ideal. And secondly, 
there is the idea that moral beliefs have been transmitted, not 
merely by education and the influence of a continuous social 
environment, but also by direct inheritance. 

That there is some truth in both these new ideas is not impos- 
sible. It is probable that some Evolutionists are disposed 
greatly to over-emphasize the influence of natural selection in 
accounting for the actual history of moral ideas, especially in 
the later stages of that history. If Biology now finds that it 
cannot get on without the idea of ' quasi-purposive ' behaviour 
in accounting for the growth of the individual organisms, still 
more must quasi-purposive action be admitted, even where we 
cannot think of directly and consciously purposive action, as an 


important factor in social Evolution l . Still it is, no doubt, true 
that Nature, in primitive stages of Evolution, has eliminated the 
exceptionally cowardly and, at a later period, the phenomenally 
idle and imprudent : and that in all ages Society has deliberately 
eliminated some few of those whose ideals were most con- 
spicuously ill-adapted for social life. Still more important has 
been the influence of the struggle between tribes in promoting 
the survival of those whose ideals were most fitted in early times 
for conquest, and in later times for a combination of industrial 
with military efficiency: though nobody has pointed out more 
forcibly than Spencer himself in his eloquent diatribes 
against Militarism how little the code of conduct that promotes 
survival can be regarded as identical with a code of morals 
possessing permanent and absolute validity. 

The other distinctively ' evolutionary ' doctrine the propaga- 
tion of moral ideas by inheritance involves much more difficult 
and debatable questions. The scientific world has not generally 
accepted Spencer's doctrine that acquired moral beliefs can 
be inherited. The question is really in large measure a physio- 
logical one, upon which it would ill become the layman in such 
matters to dogmatize. I may perhaps be allowed to remark 
that superficial observation of the facts would seem to suggest 
that, while certain moral capacities or incapacities can scarcely 
be separated from those physical and intellectual characteristics 
which are undoubtedly inherited, it is questionable whether the 
fully-developed moral belief or ' intuition ' could be transmitted 
to offspring apart from the influence of education and environ- 

1 * When we say that life consists of purposive action and development, 
we do not mean that there is a conscious and purposive application, al 
extra, of mechanical force by some independent agency. Such a conclusior 
would only signify the reintroduction, under another form, of the olc 
mechanical theory. We mean rather to record that we have observec 
phenomena which present no analogy to the mechanical or chemical actior 
on each other of independent atoms, and which do present a certain bul 
very limited resemblance to the action of a number of intelligent individual! 
working together to fulfil a common end.' Haldane, The Pathway to Reality 
I. pp. 243, 244. The earlier chapters of Von Hartmann's Philosophy Oj 
the Unconscious may be referred to for a brilliant demonstration of th( 
impossibility of accounting for the instincts of animals and the quasi 
instructive ideas and habits of men by natural selection alone. 

Chap, iv, iv] DARWINISM AND ETHICS 375 

merit. Here, as in the matter of physical habits of various kinds 
in the lower animals (even those most nearly approximating to 
mere ( reflexes '), what is inherited is probably a capacity for 
acquiring or being taught rather than any actual moral belief. 
So far the Spencerian theory has contributed an element to the 
explanation of moral evolution, though it is an element which 
really adds very little beyond a change of phraseology to the 
accounts of ethical development which might have been given, 
and were given, before the publication of the Darwinian theory \ 
There is a constant disposition to forget that the * straggle for 
existence ' as a fact was a well-known element in human history 
from the very earliest times. The originality of Darwin's theory 
consisted in seeing its bearing upon the ' origin of species/ The 
struggle for existence certainly does not explain the ' origin of 
Morality ' in the sense in which it helps to explain the ' origin 
of species/ At most it represents one of the complex forces 
which go to explain the fact of moral progress. It contributes 
an element to ethical history ; but does it add anything to 
ethical theory ? To a very limited extent I think that it does. 
It adds some shade of additional presumption to the other grounds 
which may be given for assuming that a rule of conduct which 
is de facto established in any society must have its origin in 
some consideration of social convenience, and that its observance 
must be in some way beneficial to that society. And, therefore, 
when we find ourselves feeling a strong repugnance to certain 
kinds of conduct, even though the repugnance be one which we 
find it difficult to justify on any rational principle, it is reasonable 
to assume that it probably possesses some utilitarian justification, 
which should make us unwilling to act against such an instinctive 
repugnance, unless we are very sure of our ground. Neither on 
Spencer's principles nor on any other can it be contended that 
this consideration compels us to acquiesce without question in 
each and every apparently intuitive disposition to approve or to 

1 The question turns to some extent upon the view that is taken of 
Weissinann's theory of the non-inheritance of acquired characteristics, 
upon the truth of which I express no opinion. But of course the 
inheritance of acquired physical modifications does not prove the in- 
heritance of acquired beliefs. 


condemn any kind of conduct. For, though the instinct may 
have had its justification in some supposed social utility, that 
utility may have been entirely imaginary. Many of the strongest 
ethical beliefs of savages are based upon the supposed connexion 
between various acts and divine favour or vengeance. Some- 
times, no doubt, there may be a real utility in the custom or 
practice approved, although the utility may not be what the 
savage himself supposes; as for instance it is possible that 
the custom of Exogamy, resting upon a complex of toteinistic 
ideas, has prevented the marriage of near kin and increased the 
vigour of the tribe 3 . But it would be a monstrous assumption, 
though it is one which some evolutionary writers go very near 
to countenancing, to lay it down that this must always be the 
case. Not all qualities or tendencies or inherited ' variations ' of 
a species or group promote survival. A species may survive 
because some of its qualities promote survival in spite of qualities 
which, taken by themselves, would tend to its extinction. In 
the same way it is obvious that there are many of our inherited 
tendencies and traditional beliefs which have not promoted sur- 
vival, or which have even tended to extinction without actually 
producing it. There can never have been the slightest social 
advantage in the practice of killing children who cut their lower 
teeth first rather than any other children. No belief could 
possibly have militated more against survival than the belief 
prevalent among Australian natives that every death, not due 
to obvious violence or accident, must be the result of witchcraft 
and must be avenged by the death of the bewitcher 2 . The 
presumption in favour of the established or transmitted belief 
may, therefore, be rebutted by sufficient evidence of its inutility. 
And it is fully admitted by Herbert Spencer himself that a 

1 It is true that it was at first only kin on the mother's side who were for- 
bidden to intermarry, but it seems probable that, as the primitive clan-system 
broke down, the prohibition was extended to all kinsmen. 

2 Spencer and Gillan, The Native Tribes of Central Australia, pp. 46-8. 
The writers remark, i It need hardly be pointed out what a potent element 
this custom has been in keeping down the numbers of the tribe.' I suppose 
there might be conditions under which a limitation of numbers might help 
the survival of a species in competition with other species. But this would be 
no argument for the general adoption of a custom tending to such limitation. 


belief which once had a relative justification in real social utility 
may outlive its justification. A large part of his voluminous 
writings are, in fact, devoted to the demonstration, with impres- 
sive if wearisome iteration, of the social inutility of the beliefs 
and ideas which modern industrial societies have inherited from 
societies accustomed to habitual militancy. It cannot therefore be 
rational to regard these inherited ' intuitions ' as final guides to 
conduct. If Evolution has supplied us with a new moral criterion, 
it is not to be found in this doctrine of inherited intuitions. The 
doctrine, in so far as it has a sound physiological basis, can at 
most only slightly reinforce that presumption in favour of 
established Morality from which the sane Moralist of any school 
sets out. So far I have argued on Spencer's own hedonistic 
principles. From the point of view taken up in previous 
chapters, we should further have to admit that a practice or 
inherited belief may promote survival, and so, ultimately, increase 
of pleasure, and still not be approved by the developed moral 
consciousness. To us the quality of life and of pleasure is 
important and not merely its quantity. If Morality did in 
a sense come into existence to promote life, it exists (as Aristotle 
would say) for good life, and good life does not mean merely 
pleasant life. 


But Herbert Spencer is not content with giving a psychological 
explanation either of our mo